September 17, 2015
Michael Moore Has A New Film, Where To Invade Next,
And Much To Say About US Exceptionalism
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Toronto (AP) ``Mike’s Happy Movie’’ was the working title of Michael Moore’s latest documentary, ``Where to Invade Next,’’ but few would consider its examination of American ills — from runaway college tuition to mass incarceration — the stuff of bubbly, feel-good delight.
Yet ``Where to Invade Next,’’ in which Moore plunders foreign (mostly European) ideas like Italy’s government-mandated vacation or Portugal’s decriminalized drug use to bring back home to America, has an unmistakable whiff of hope.
Yes, Moore, that passionately voluble critic and left-wing icon, is feeling a wind at his back. Moore’s first film in six years, he says, was partly inspired by change he’s witnessed in recent years, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the success of marriage equality.
In ``Where to Invade Next,’’ which Moore is currently shopping for distribution, he travels to various countries seeking smarter ways to educate, police and work. ``Instead of sending in the Marines,’’ he says in the film, ``send in me.’’
In an interview following the movie’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere, the 61-year-old filmmaker weighed in on Hilary Clinton (“a decent soul with a great sense of humor’’), Bernie Sanders (“a bit of a crank’’) and where he got his international outlook growing up in northern Michigan (“I blame Canada’’).
Moore is optimistic ‘things are getting better’
AP: Your film suggests American chest-thumping has blurred its vision.
Moore: This concept of American exceptionalism is the death of us. We know personally it does none of us any good walking around going ``Yeah! Yeah!’’ That’s not the path to self-improvement. I mean, you can like yourself, and I do. I love the fact that I’m an American. I love this country. I love everything about what it means. But I also embrace the other side of it, and in doing so, it’s incumbent upon me as a citizen to want to help fix it.
AP: Does this film signify some optimistic shift in you?
Moore: I am crazily optimistic about things getting better and people having the power to do that and making it better. But remember, I’m a filmmaker and my first concern is always to make a great movie. If I don’t make a great movie, then the politics are what? Nothing’s going to come of it because no one’s going to be watching my movie.
AP: Do you think the protest spirit of America has waned?
Moore: The month before the Iraq War began — that one Saturday — there were millions of people in the streets in towns all over America. Largest collective demonstration in the history of the United States. One month later, it didn’t stop the war. And when it didn’t, people just kind of gave up and there weren’t large-scale demonstrations after that. People just can’t give up so easily here. Things take time.
AP: What are your thoughts on the presidential race?
Moore: I think it’s going to be very interesting. And I think it’s really too early to tell what’s going to happen. I know people are worried about Donald Trump, but what you have to understand about Trump, first of all, is that he’s a performance artist. ... There will come a point here, this year, where people go: OK, we’ve had enough of this performance art.
AP: You’re involved with movie theaters in Michigan. Do you still believe in the theatrical experience?
Moore: This is our one populist art form. It’s the one thing everybody can still sort of do no matter what their economic status is. You can’t go to music anymore. If you’re a working person or if you’re poor, you can’t go to a concert anymore because it costs hundreds of dollars now to get a ticket. You can’t go to an NBA game. You can’t go sit in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium for five bucks. Those days are over.
AP: Do you worry that many conservatives won’t consider seeing your film, that you will merely preach to the choir, so to speak?
Moore: I think why I upset Fox News and the right wing so much is because I’m one of the few people on the left that has crossed over into mainstream America that has a large audience in Middle America. And that drives them crazy because the left is supposed to be out there on the left wing of the limb on the tree. And I don’t live out there, I live here. I reach millions and millions of people, and that’s a threat to them.
Will I reach that 20 percent way over on the right? No. But I’m not trying to reach them. I’m doing what I wish more people in television and movies would do, where everyone — they’re broadcasters — is trying to reach a broad audience, and in doing so, you have to mollify the message. ... By the time it’s over, what we have is mostly mediocre movies and mediocre television. And it’s only those TV shows and movies that say, ``To hell with that. I’m going to give this to you from the heart, from the gut and let the chips fall.’’ Those are the great movies. Those are the great TV shows.
Fifty Year Old Loudoun Museum In Virginia Is
Set To Close Soon; Its Collections May Scatter
By WILL GREENBERG
The Washington Post
Leesburg, VA (AP) They have until December. Just four months to try to save the little-known Virginia museum that has housed and promoted the history of confederates and Native Americans, politicians and unsung Virginians. A little more than 120 days for supporters of the Loudoun Museum to try to preserve the exhibits that for nearly 50 years have been used to tell the history of its residents.
This year, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, which until the recession provided most of the museum’s operating budget, allocated $36,000. That was far less than the $63,000 that the board had given the museum the previous year.
It isn’t nearly enough to keep the museum going, but it may be just the amount needed to dissolve the museum’s collection.
This log cabin is one of Loudoun County’s first homes
Board Chairman Scott K. York (R) said the panel has limited funds to cover the approximately 45 nonprofit organizations it supports. Given the funding restraints, he said, the museum needs to find more ways to bring in its own money.
``They just need to restructure and do a better effort in allowing the expansion of the programming and (other things),’’ he said.
The museum gets some funding from book sales and outside donors, but nothing close to what the county has supplied.
The county began cutting its contribution in 2009, said Alana Blumenthal, the only full-time paid staff member at the museum.
Blumenthal said the museum is in a difficult spot: New programs would bring in more money, but without proper funding, she can’t start them. Still, she is determined, saying the county deserves to have a place to properly honor its history.
The museum’s main building, in Leesburg, is two houses combined, Blumenthal said. One is a meeting place for the Odd Fellows fraternal society, which has been gathering there since the early 1900s. There’s still a slot on the door through which members had to give a password to enter. The other building at one point housed an African American doctor who provided medical care for black Virginians when there were few places they could go for treatment.
Next door is one of the county’s original houses — a small log cabin where Blumenthal hosts programs such as art demonstrations.
The Loudoun Museum in Leesburg, VA
The museum’s collection includes a ballot for Jefferson Davis in his unopposed 1861 bid for president of the Confederate States of America, an accounting of the area’s transportation history — from horses to airplanes — and a wreath woven with hair from several generations of the Edwards family, the original owners of the land that would become Sterling, Va.
Blumenthal, 28, has worked at the museum for four years, serving as curator and administrator.
Before that, she worked at the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colo., and she was an intern at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. She said what she loves about history is learning about cause-and-effect relationships.
Blumenthal, who wants to apply to graduate school, said she and her husband have considered the possibility of relocating, but all of that is on hold while the museum’s fate remains unclear.
``I want to give this place everything I can while I’m here,’’ she said. ``This is a time where it really is so make-or-break for the museum.’’
Before the cuts started, Blumenthal said, the museum was looking into expanding, adding classrooms and educational programs. Loudoun Museum used to have staff members who would travel to schools and conduct interactive lessons, she said.
The museum charges $3 for adults and $1 for students, teachers and seniors. Last year, it brought in $21,508 from attendance, Blumenthal said, in addition to $1,400 in retail book sales and $15,500 in donations.
The Board of Supervisors did throw the museum a life-preserver in July. It gave the museum an additional $55,000 with the assignment of developing a long-term plan for financial stability by December.
One of the exhibits at the Loudoun Museum
A committee of about 20 Loudoun County employees and community members is weighing the museum’s options, led by Assistant County Administrator Julie Grandfield.
Corporate sponsorship and other revenue-generating ideas are on the table.
Grandfield said the committee is also exploring having the county buy and own the museum, as it does the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum. But even that possibility holds challenges. The county would have to negotiate with owners who have loaned items to the museum and have them renegotiate deals with the county.
Grandfield said she doesn’t think a long-term solution will be established by December, but she said she’s confident the group will generate enough ideas to have the board give them a bit more time.
She wants to ``set some milestones so after a year, two years, the museum will be in a much stronger place.’’
``We’re trying to develop options for them,’’ she added.
Blumenthal said it would be a shame for the collection to dissolve, but she, along with the committee, has had to think about where all the artifacts would go should the museum have to close. Options include public buildings such as libraries and the courthouse or dispersing the collection among other museums. Ultimately, Blumenthal wants all the pieces to stay in the county.
``If it was somehow consolidated into a larger museum, I think you would lose a lot of the specific information that the Loudoun Museum is able to offer,’’ said Gabrielle Patterson, who was an intern at the museum this summer and just returned to the University of Virginia for her junior year. ``I hope everything goes well for the museum... I would be happy to take my kids there some day.’’
Car Makers Quickly Adding Semi-Autonomous Features
By DEE-ANN DURBIN
AP Auto Writer
Detroit (AP) Fully self-driving cars are a few years into the future. But some of the technology that will make them possible is already here.
Automakers are rapidly adding radar- and camera-based systems that can keep a car in its lane, detect pedestrians and brake automatically to avoid a collision. For now, they work with a driver behind the wheel, but eventually, versions of these systems will likely power self-driving cars.
Semi-autonomous features used to be confined to luxury cars, but they’re quickly migrating to mainstream brands as technology gets cheaper. Toyota, for example, will offer automatic braking, pedestrian detection and lane departure warning for just a few hundred dollars on all of its vehicles by 2017.
Automakers are also being nudged to add these features by safety advocates like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which gives its top crashworthiness rankings to vehicles with crash prevention technology.
Joseph Gerardi, a communications engineer from Centereach, New York, recently bought a 2015 Nissan Murano specifically for its semi-autonomous safety technology.
As part of its $2,260 technology package, Nissan offers emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. The package also has forward collision warning, which uses radar to monitor both the car ahead and the car in front of that one.
Gerardi’s wife, Michele, and 4-year-old daughter, Caroline, use the SUV to get around town, so he wanted the most technology he could get for under $40,000.
``We just wanted to get the safest thing possible,’’ he said.
He thinks more people would push for semi-autonomous technology if automakers promoted it, or if dealers had a better understanding of how it works. Gerardi had to call Nissan, for example, to get a complete explanation of the Murano’s emergency braking system.
Not everyone likes the self-driving trend.
``I really, really dislike automobiles that think they’re cleverer than me,’’ said Will Inglis, who lives outside London and writes about the defense industry. He thinks drivers will come to rely too much on semi-autonomous technology and driving skills will degrade.
But people like Inglis may soon be in the minority. In a recent U.S. survey by the Boston Consulting Group, 55 percent of drivers said they would likely buy a partially autonomous car in the next five years.
The array of semi-autonomous features now offered on cars can be bewildering. Here are some of the most common:
• Adaptive cruise control: Regular cruise control, which has been around for decades, can keep the car at a set speed on the highway. Adaptive cruise control maintains a set speed as well as a set distance from the car in front of it, and it can slow down or speed up automatically. It started appearing on luxury brands like Mercedes and Lexus about a decade ago. Now, it’s available on less expensive models, like the Mazda3 small car and the Chrysler 200 sedan.
• Lane keeping: Lane departure warning systems beep or vibrate if the driver leaves a lane. Camera-based lane-keeping systems actually steer the car back into the lane automatically. They have their limits; they might not work in snow or at other times when lane markings aren’t clearly visible. Lane keeping started appearing on the market in 2014. Among the vehicles that offer it are the Ford Fusion Titanium, as a $1,200 option, and the Jeep Renegade Limited, as a $995 option.
•Emergency braking: Some forward collision warning systems beep or flash lights to warn the driver if they detect an object. More advanced ones warn the driver and, if the driver doesn’t react, apply the brakes. The systems may either bring the car to a complete stop or slow it enough to mitigate damage. The technology, introduced in 2008, is recommended by the federal government. It’s already standard on the Volvo XC90 SUV, which can even brake automatically as the driver is turning into an intersection. Other vehicles that offer emergency braking are the Subaru Outback, as part of the $3,090 EyeSight package, and the Toyota Camry XLE, as part of a $2,570 technology and navigation package.
• Self-parking: Self-parking systems can find a spot and automatically park in a parallel or perpendicular spot. The systems, on the market since 2008, are now on many mainstream vehicles. It’s a $395 option on the Ford Focus Titanium.
• Highway autopilot: Single-lane highway autopilot is basically just a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. It helps keep the car centered in its lane at highway speeds, allowing the driver to cruise with minimal effort. Mercedes, Infiniti and Audi are among those whose systems work in tandem on the highway. Others, including Tesla and Cadillac, are expected to offer advanced autopilot systems soon.