Tuesday, June 12, 2018

George Romero bust to be unveiled at Monroeville Mall

Christian Stavrakis’ IndieGoGo campaign is aptly named “Monroeville or Bust.”

When the three-day “Living Dead Weekend” kicks off (pun intended) Friday at Monroeville Mall, it will feature the unveiling of a bronze likeness of the late George A. Romero. The filmmaker, who made Pittsburgh his adopted home, shot much of “Dawn of the Dead” 40 years ago in the mall.

Thanks to local sculptor and filmmaker Christian Stavrakis, Romero’s contribution to Pennsylvania, independent film, and the zombie genre itself finally has a permanent home!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the production of Dawn of the Dead at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, PA … The Mall has long been a destination for fans of George’s work from all over the world, and now – with the blessing of the Mall’s management – a permanent memorial to George may be installed, in the form of a bronze portrait bust sculpted by myself and sponsored by Cryptic Pictures, a company which wouldn’t exist without his inspiration.

Despite its historical significance, very little actually remains of the original structure. After years of repairs, renovations, and improvements, the Monroeville Mall has become almost unrecognizable. And about three years ago the last remaining relic, a small footbridge featured in the film, was dismantled and moved to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

“The prices were sky high, and that was fair, because these guys are very good sculptors,” Mr. Stavrakis said. “Then it sort of ‘dawned’ on me, so to speak, that I should do it myself because I knew George, and it was sort of a farewell from me, personally.”

Time was not his friend. Mr. Stavrakis works full time selling cigars at Allegheny Smoke Works in Blawnox. He also serves as chief creative officer for Pittsburgh’s Cryptic Pictures film production company.

“My days there are 10 hours long, so when I came home, I sculpted until 3, 4 in the morning, then I passed out, got up and did it again,” he said, laughing.

He forced himself to take a week off now and then, to gain artistic perspective: “If you give yourself a little distance, you can see where you’re going sort of off.”

He began the project around late January and worried he wouldn’t be able to finish it in time for “Living Dead Weekend.” There is a sister event in Evans City each October, but Mr. Stavrakis wanted to have the bust ready for Monroeville, where it will be on permanent display.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Facebook, Operant conditioning and Brave New World

Aldous Huxley's warning against a 'Brave New World' The prescient English writer and philosopher, Aldous Huxley, was through the 1930's, a keen critical observer of the rise of political extremism, coupled with the irresistible progress of modern technology.

"If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled"
- Aldous Huxley

The Atlantic:

"In the 1930's, B. F. Skinner developed the concept of operant conditioning. He put pigeons and rats in Skinner boxes to study how he could modify their behavior using rewards and punishments. His pigeons pecked at buttons in search of food. We peck at keys in search of virtual rewards -- good news arriving in an email, a retweet, a thumbs-up on a blog post, or leveling up in World of Warcraft.

The effectiveness of these behavioral modification techniques are in plain sight -- families ignoring one another while checking the email and Facebook at dinner, drivers texting in heavy traffic, and 14-year-old girls sending hundreds of text messages a day.

Skinner's techniques of operant conditioning and his notorious theory of behavior modification were denounced by his critics 70 years ago as fascist, manipulative vehicles that could be used for government control.

Skinner's critics were prescient. They were right about control but wrong about the controllers. Our Internet handlers, not government, are using operant conditioning to modify our behavior today.

According to psychologist Scott Rigby, we have an innate desire to gain mastery of new situations. As a result, players crave leveling up in a computer game. Just try getting a kid to turn off a game when he is almost at the next level. As humans, we have a powerful need for human connection and recognition. Facebook and Twitter meet the need by enabling us to gather friends and followers. Facebook and Twitter's "like" or "tweet" buttons are designed into Web sites throughout the Internet. Big rewards that come at unpredictable times trigger dopamine releases in the pleasure centers of our brains and keep us searching the web for the best price, trying to win an eBay auction, or pushing buttons on slots.

Gambling casino operators such as Harrah's were among the first to employ operant conditioning for profit. They used carefully designed physical environments, skillfully designed slot machines, highly motivating unpredictable reward systems to ensnare rows of players in "the zone" in which time, space, and social identity are suspended while they push buttons and pull levers -- some so absorbed they urinate in cups so as not to break the flow. One of the keys to making these environments effective is the ability to track individual gamblers' activities using reward cards. Unfortunately for Harrah's when you leave the casino, you leave their Skinner box.

The beauty of the Internet is that by combining big data, behavioral targeting, wearable and mobile devices, and GPS, application developers can design more effective operant conditioning environments and keep us in virtual Skinner boxes as long as we have a smart phone in our pockets."

To be Continued...


James Dacre: are we living Brave New World's nightmare future?

Aldous Huxley describes today world…57 years ago

Aldous Huxley on Technodictators

Aldous Huxley, The Dictatorship of The Future (Video)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Portland Police Bureau's Mounted Patrol ends its long ride

Farewell, Mounted Patrol

After a long history with the Police Bureau, the Mounted Patrol has been disbanded. The patrol plans a sendoff for the horses. The officers will be reassigned. The unit was cut when money was not allocated from the city budget to continue it as of July 1, 2017.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Scientists study swarm of Yellowstone earthquakes

Seismologists are studying a swarm of 500-plus earthquakes that have rattled the Yellowstone Park area since June 12.

Most are centered 8 miles north-northeast of West Yellowstone.  That is just a few miles east of the Hebgen Lake Basin, the site of the historic 1959 quake.  That one measured 7.3 on the Richter scale, killed 28 people and created Quake Lake, near the Gallatin National Forest.

Mike Stickney, of the Earthquake Studies office at Montana Tech, said earthquake swarms are normal in Yellowstone.  He says many are smaller.  When we checked we found dozens that measured under 2.0 on the Richter scale.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Los Angeles People Really Think of L.A. as a Sanctuary City

Trump supporters take over Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Meeting on immigration, illegal aliens, and Sanctuary City status.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hollywood, Chris Evans, and 'Virtue signalling'

Virtue signalling:

"Virtue signalling is the conspicuous expression of moral values by an individual done primarily with the intent of enhancing that person's standing within a social group. The term was first used in signalling theory, to describe any behavior that could be used to signal virtue – especially piety among the political or religious faithful. Since 2015, the term has become more commonly used as a pejorative characterization by commentators to criticize what they regard as the platitudinous, empty, or superficial support of certain political views on social media; and also used within groups to criticize their own members for valuing outward appearance over substantive action." - Wikipedia

Monday, April 17, 2017

US Tests Highly-Accurate Nuclear Gravity Bomb

Scientists say they have successfully carried out an initial test flight for an improved version of a nuclear bomb that has been in the U.S. arsenal for decades, The Associated Press reported Saturday.

Sandia National Laboratories conducted a test last month to assess the non-nuclear capabilities of the B61-12, the report said. As part of the test, an F-16 dropped an inert version of the weapon over a Nevada desert.

"It's great to see things all come together: the weapon design, the test preparation, the aircraft, the range and the people who made it happen," said Anna Schauer, the director of the lab’s Stockpile Resource Center.


"In a well-timed statement, just as tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and potential US airstrikes run wild, the NNSA said that in conjunction with the US Air Force, it had completed the first qualification flight test of B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada."

In the press release, the NNSA said that the "non-nuclear assembly test" was dropped from an F-16 based at Nellis Air Force Base and was intended to evaluate "both the weapon’s non-nuclear functions as well as the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon."