Douglas Slocombe, 1913 – 2016 – a very important part of cinema history

Douglas Slocombe, who has died aged 103, was one of Britain’s greatest cameramen – an award-winning cinematographer noted for his high contrast shooting and a key figure in British and American film from the heyday of Ealing Studios in the 1940s and 50s onwards.

One of the greatest cameramen in the history of the genre, IMHO.

Slocombe, who was entirely self-taught, had a career spanning more than 40 years and 80 films. He was nominated for Oscars for Travels With My Aunt (1972), Julia (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Bafta recognised him with awards for The Servant (1963), The Great Gatsby (1974) and Julia, nominations for Guns at Batasi (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), and a lifetime achievement award in 1993.

Born in London, Slocombe spent his childhood in Paris, where his father was a diplomatic and foreign correspondent for London newspapers, entertaining politicians and such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. He graduated in mathematics from the Sorbonne, but his two preoccupations were film and journalism. When work on a French Alexander Korda production did not materialise because he lacked a work permit and his hopes of joining a Gainsborough Studios apprenticeship scheme were dashed, Slocombe ended up as a junior news editor at British United Press in London for three years, also writing (from London) a Paris newsletter under a pseudonym.

To compensate for this not terribly exciting job, he continued his childhood passion, photography, which had begun at the age of seven with a Kodak Box Brownie. He increasingly sold his pictures internationally…

In 1939 he persuaded Life to send him to Danzig (the semi-autonomous city state that became the modern Polish port of Gdańsk), which was acquiring the reputation of being the most dangerous place in Europe. On his return, Herbert Kline, who was producing a documentary to be entitled Lights Out in Europe, asked Slocombe to return to Danzig to film. It was crucial this was done before his powerful photographs of, among others, black- and brownshirts terrorising the city, were published….

I suggest you RTFA for his tales of daring in WW2…filming under Goebbels nose in one instance.

So many of his films are lifetime favorites for me: Lion in Winter, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit. During his freelance career, he did A High Wind in Jamaica, The Italian Job and the Indiana Jones trilogy. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was his last project.

He will be missed.

Solar energy ready to be US leading new power source

New statistics just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that in the coming year, the booming solar sector will add more new electricity-generating capacity than any other — including natural gas and wind.

EIA reports that planned installations for 2016 include 9.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar — followed by 8 gigawatts (or 8 billion watts) of natural gas and 6.8 gigawatts of wind. This suggests solar could truly blow out the competition, because the EIA numbers are only for large or utility-scale solar arrays or farms and do not include fast-growing rooftop solar, which will also surely add several additional gigawatts of capacity in 2016.

In other words, U.S. solar seems poised for not just a record year but perhaps a blowout year. Last year, in contrast, solar set a new record with 7.3 gigawatts of total new photovoltaic capacity across residential, commercial, and utility scale installations.

“If actual additions ultimately reflect these plans, 2016 will be the first year in which utility-scale solar additions exceed additions from any other single energy source,” says EIA…

In the grand scheme, the tax credits for solar, as well as an extension of the production tax credit for wind, could serve as a kind of “bridge” into an era in which the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is operating — or at least, so the current administration hopes. Granted, that depends on whether that plan survives its current legal challenges.

The article has a lot of blather about taxes and tax credits as subsidies. The reality is that no significant change or addition to electric power generation in most countries depends to some extent on subsidies. What upsets conservatives – especially Republicans – is that fossil-brained old coal money is losing out – and even worse, private solar, home-based solar, gives support directly to comsumers instead of corporate moneybags.

A mortal sin in the minds of 19th Century ideologues.

Scalia’s Dead — Dow Chemical figures it is cheaper to pay for their crimes than appeal

Scalia shoes

Dow Chemical Co. said it agreed to pay $835 million to settle an antitrust case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death reduced its chances of overturning a jury award.

Dow, the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, said Friday the accord will resolve its challenges to a $1.06 billion award to purchasers of compounds for urethanes, chemicals used to make foam upholstery for furniture and plastic walls in refrigerators.

The Midland, Michigan-based company disputed a jury’s finding it had conspired with four other chemical makers to fix urethane prices and asked the Supreme Court to take the class-action case on appeal. Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative members, had voted to scale back the reach of such group suits.

“Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation…”

Ain’t that such a polite way to say we lost one of corporate America’s truly dedicated pimps in government?

Seaweed — that tastes like bacon

Red dulse

Researchers at Oregon State have patented a new strain of seaweed that tastes like bacon when it’s cooked.

The seaweed, a form of red marine algae, looks like translucent red lettuce. It also has twice the nutritional value of kale and grows very quickly. Did we mention it tastes like bacon?

According to Oregon State researcher Chris Langdon, his team started growing the new strain while trying to find a good food source for edible sea snails, or abalone, a very popular food in many parts of Asia. The strain is a new type of red algae that normally grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.

But Langdon realized he had his hands on something with a lot more potential when his colleague Chuck Toombs visited his office and caught a glimpse of the growing seaweed. Toombs said he thought the bacon-seaweed had “the potential for a new industry for Oregon…”

Toombs then began working with the university’s Food Innovation Center, which created a range of foods with the seaweed as its main ingredient.

Langdon said no US companies grow red algae for people to eat, but the seaweed had been consumed by people in northern Europe for centuries.

This stuff is pretty amazing,” Langdon told OSU. “When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.”

Though no analysis has been done yet to find out whether commercializing the bacon-seaweed would be practical, the team thinks the vegan and vegetarian markets may be interested. Toombs’ MBA students are hard at work on a marketing plan for a new line of specialty foods.

Some red algae is sold in the US now, but it is a different strain from the one harvested at OSU…

I’m ready to try it. Growing up on the New England coast, it wasn’t unusual to use seaweed as a condiment.