THE SHAPE OF WATER: Bioethics, Surrealism, Personhood & Environmental Justice

January 24, 2018

THE SHAPE OF WATER set up is highly character driven. A mute Hispanic woman janitor, her Black woman colleague suffering a bad marriage, a gay unemployed artist, and a Sadist walk into a Cold War bunker. It could have been the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, it is the start of an amazing work of postmodern surrealist film.

 If we consider surrealism, as Andre Breton suggests, to be an attempt to reconcile the simultaneous existence of the awake and sleep states—THE SHAPE OF WATER is a poster child for that movement. The phenomenon applies to characters as well as the movie’s viewers. Visually, THE SHAPE OF WATER contrasts a hypnogogic state with harsh reality. Scenes are often in a gritty nightmarish Cold War industrial military bunker. In the bunker dangerous ‘isms’ compete for ranking—fascism, racism, sexism, and classism are all at play. A visually serene fantasy world exist beyond the bunker’s locked doors. It is a place where old Hollywood musical choreographies hold key product placement territory. Anything can happen and does. Those entitled to hatred by persecution for any number of reasons, choose love instead.

The relationships between the living beings in that outer realm defy all the conventions of the time, history, environment and evolution. There is one exception, the convention of ‘Villain’ has no wiggle room for alteration. He is just an unadulterated evil.

The theatrical ensemble is remarkable—Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Dough Jones are among them. There is not much else to say other than be prepared to watch the awards roll in.

 THE SHAPE OF WATER feels like a sequel to Del Toro’s earlier film, PAN’S LABYRINTH. But, there are differences. While the current work is a cross genre piece which traverses cultures, the earlier movie is culture locked. PAN, and the girl for whom he provided escape, lived in the confines of the rise of Francoists. The politic is physicalized by an archaic estate operated by the girl’s fascist stepfather. THE SHAPE OF WATER set realizes many different types of signifying characters from multiple cultural and economic backgrounds. The time period is the USA Cold War. In both THE SHAPE OF WATER, and PAN’S LABYRINTH, the “monsters” are supposedly human, but it is they who actually give monsters a bad name.

Why is the SHAPE OF WATER not just another “Beauty and the Beast” but worthy of bioethical consideration? This is not a medical movie though it is a scathing rebuke of the forces that thwart good science. At stake in the SHAPE OF WATER is the personhood of all the characters in our previously depicted Cold War bar joke. Dignity, a state of the healthy intelligent mind, is carried about by the body. Abuse the body, abuse the dignity. Malign the body, malign the dignity. Remove the dignity, remove the personhood. By this reasoning, restoration of dignity in large part means protection of the body from torture and other forms of abuse. That protection is requisite, though not always sufficient for the reclamation of personhood. One never knows what is most effective until one tries. It is the organized beneficence of trying to ‘do good,’ tempered by autonomy, in order to render equipoise and justice, which ought to be delivered by bioethical consideration.

This film helps explore the aforementioned cascade. In Del Toro’s hands, the ominous danger and political distrust manifest in science fiction shifts toward fantasy. The mystery, myth and truth escape of those most vulnerable to the abuse of dignity, because of their bodies, is fully manifest in The SHAPE OF WATER. The process of the film dissolves disability into strength. In the tradition of super heroes, Del Toro’s SHAPE OF WATER sheds the horn-rimmed glasses and neck ties of its characters so they leap, fly or swim into their own made magic. THE SHAPE OF WATER is technically exquisite. This film is one to watch on as large a screen as you can afford.

The Shape of Water annotation http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5580390/
Pan’s Labyrinth annotation http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/



My Love Affair With the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond (clip) from Luna Productions on Vimeo.

TV Screenings and Viewing options for  MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN: 

My Love Affair with the Brain will screen in the San Francisco Bay Area On TV,  
March 22, Wed., 8 pm on KQED9 Plus the following7 other times (note that KQED9 is a different channel than KQED WORLD, etc.)·  
KQED World: Fri, Mar 10, 2017 -- 6:00am ·  
KQED World: Fri, Mar 10, 2017 -- 12:00pm ·  
KQED 9: Thu, Mar 23, 2017 -- 2:00am ·  
KQED Plus: Fri, Mar 24, 2017 -- 3:00pm ·  
KQED World: Sun, Mar 26, 2017 -- 2:00pm ·  
KQED Life: Tue, Mar 28, 2017 -- 9:00pm·  
KQED Life: Wed, Mar 29, 2017 -- 3:00am

PURCHASE: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN  is  available for ACADEMIC PURCHASE (Libraries, Colleges, Schools.) http://lunaproductions.com/buy-love-affair-brain-marian-diamond/individuals: http://lunaproductions.com/personal-use-dvd-my-love-affair-with-the-brain/

Part I: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN Bioethics, Neuroplasticity and Whimsy

Marian Diamond portraits, 1984, photos by Ed Kash

Dr. Marian Diamond, photo courtesy of Luna Productions

Dr. Marian Diamond, photo courtesy of Luna Productions

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN is an award winning documentary about the life and work of Dr. Marian Cleeves Diamond, PhD, neuroanatomist, researcher and educator. Filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weinberg (Luna Productions) make an argument which by all reasonable standards would support Diamond’s candidacy for a Nobel Prize, not only in science but also for peace. 

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN shows Marian Diamond is a filmmakers dream. She is fluid and animated as anyone who routinely spends hours of her day on a stage before a judging audience of hundreds of students ought to be—but often are not. The camera loves her. With aesthetic wisdom the film not only focuses on Marian but on others sharing the territory she inhabits. It is a broad domain of geography, mind and family tradition. She is a catalyst for laughter fueled intelligence.

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN has established an iconic visual representation of Dr. Diamond’s vantage. It is the long view and the long shot. In Diamond’s mind the brain is always at the forefront, the seat of human intelligence and humanity. It is this view that Luna Production’s camera reflects in the film. We see Diamond watch the brain, from a distance but in sharp focus. Then we see the audience, and the world, watch her. The  filmmakers take the opportunity to not only show us her but the joyous reactions of others ignited in the wake of her whimsy. 

The lightness of Marian Diamond’s ‘being,’ is even reflected in Ryan and Weinberg’s choice of narrator for MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN,  Mayim Bialik. Bialik holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA but also plays a neuroscientist on TV’s BIG BANG THEORY. 

Marian Diamond is a scientist who is also a woman. She came up through a period when women did not teach in academia. Well qualified and well suited to lecturing she may have never have found that passion were it not for the persecution of her employer and mentor while working at Cornell University. That professor was fired during the rise of the witch-hunt of McCarthyism in the 1950s. However, the professor’s parting shot was to recommend the only person he knew could, and should, take his lectern— a woman, Marian Diamond,PhD. And so, at that University, Diamond became the first woman science lecturer in its history. 

Marian Diamond did not mean to dismantle archaic science with new truths, she’s just made that way—a fact to which she is not oblivious. Her youth and adult life has been filled with brilliant scientist husbands, mother, father and free thinking siblings first then her own children. She did not only study dead brains as specimens, but watched the living ones around her. They were all collaborators and conspirators in her quest to understand.

Dr. Marian Diamond’s major scientific contributions are generally divided into three: discovery of the impact of the environment on brain development; differences between the cerebral cortex of male and female rats independent of sex hormones; and the likely link between positive thinking—or happiness—in maintaining individuals immunological health reflected in brain tissue and function. Rigorous scientific inquiry often divides domains of investigation of a single entity. But Dr. Marian Diamond’s hallmark is: that which others might think static she suspects is mobile, multifaceted, unified though plastic—and when needs be— able to be remodeled.

PART II: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN Bioethics and Meaning Derived from Science

Catherine Ryan and Gary Weinberg’s documentary film MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN shows Dr. Marian Cleeves Diamond, PhD is not only a theoretical scientist but also an applied one. The Nuremberg Code—the rules for research conduct arising from the Nuremberg trials—has ten points. The second of those ten is that: Experiments should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature. Dr. Diamond’s scientific integrity at the work bench has yielded a change in how we view human capacity. 

Luna Productions film shows a field clinic on brain growth, Diamond’s project, Enrichment in Action. It uses findings of the doctor’s brain enrichment research to directly benefit impoverished, orphaned children. In Cambodia a group of children are provided with an environment fortified with supplementary vitamins, language skills, computer lessons, and promotion of the children’s wider social acceptance. She has been facilitating, watching and documenting those children’s growth over years. 

There are multiple other clinical applications to the insights of brain malleability derived from Marian Diamond’s work. In the not too distant past, medical students were routinely taught that only a tenth of the cerebral cortex (the heaviest part of the brain) was actively used. The implication was that if brain cells were lost that portion of the brain’s function was permanently diminished. The observation that nurture, as well as abuse, can alter brain function through structural change—is among neuroanatomist Marian Diamond’s major contributions to scientific history. That truth defines a choice to be made, by humanity, about how we can proceed, as individuals and a group. We either promote brain health or we do not. 

The idea of the mind-body complex evolved in western culture more slowly than in others. After time in China, Kenya and Australia, Dr. Diamond’s paradigm expanded even the Mind-Body complex to include the significance of the brain as a switching station—validating a Mind-Brain-Body complex as it were. Science at its best over turns old beliefs with new information. There are many applied applications to Diamond’s science. Clinicians now see their tasks as recruiting brain cells and promoting their growth and function within the window of best opportunity to promote neuro-plasticity, or brain flexibility. This is as important in maximizing function after any neurological insult like stroke or traumatic brain injury, dementia or aging—as it is in early childhood development. 

Those recently experiencing the birth of a baby in a hospital may notice that policy has shifted so that mothers and babies are no longer easily separated in the first moments after delivery. We now know that immediate breast feeding is essential for best growth and development of infants brains, and also prevention of chronic disease later in life for children and their mothers. These phenomena are in part nutritional but also the effect of early bonding—nurture. 

There is a story told by a friend who was sitting for days to become a Buddhist Priest. It was arduous. On her brief breaks she would light a stick of incense at the window. Doubting that she may have chosen the wrong direction for her existence she asked the universe for a sign. Just then a magnificent shooting star crossed her eye-line. Then she wondered, ‘But what does it mean?’ This is the quandary of both life and science.  

Marian Diamond has written, “The greatest thrill in my life up to that moment was when I held my first newborn child in my arms against my breast. I knew why I existed.” That child was born in immediate proximity  to Dr. Diamond’s completion of her PhD, in 1953. Though her life’s work was set at that time it would take decades to realize its meaning. 

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE BRAIN spreads the word not only about what Dr. Diamond’s research has been but what it means. Diamond has summarized her take home lessons from her 60 years in brain research. She believes all the signs lead to the idea that brain health is dependent on five things, diet, exercise, challenge, newness, and love.



Part I: LOVING and Bioethics The Right to Marry

LOVING - Official Trailer from Mill Valley Film Festival on Vimeo.

Courtesy Focus Films

LOVING was the closing night film of the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival. Jeff Nichols is its writer/director. At 38 years old, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols is a master at breaking stereotypes about cultures, especially those below the Mason Dixon Line.  

LOVING is based on the lives of Mildred  and Richard Loving. The portrayals by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in the title roles is an exquisitely intimate, internal portrait. The main characters met young, fell in love in a poor rural neighbor of Virginia where races interacted socially. The love aspect of the story is prominent but the underclass nature of interracial life in the region is equally as strong. In 1958, the couple were forbidden to marry because their state was among many with anti-miscegenation laws.  

Nichols’ LOVING is as much about class— working poor—as it is about race. As long as Mildred and Richard kept within the constraints of the geo-social ‘Bottoms’ the state powers would not care. They weren’t so much jailed because Mildred was Black while Richard White but because they dared want their love and children legitimated. Anti-miscegenation laws stemmed, above all else not from morality but economics—controlling who could own property, historically determined by parentage. The law they violated was a vestige of slavery in their state.

LOVING, the feature length fictional film, evolved from director Nichols’ admiration for a documentary made years before. Nichols LOVING defies the Hollywood Film industries tendency to make heroism only a characteristic of overtly  “charismatic people.” LOVING is a work that celebrates that every day, ordinary people do the impossible. 

The Lovings were interested in living their lives. Referred by Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) at Mrs. Loving’s initiation, the couple left the lawyers to the legal job. While the Loving’s tended their own work, raising a family.

The ACLU fought and won Loving V Virginia in the supreme court in 1967 — near ten years after the birth of the couple’s first child. The case was won based  on Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law  being in violation of the  Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which, provides equal protection under the law — including the right to marry. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the Restoration amendments after the US Civil war. The Restoration Amendments among other things legally dismantled the economic system of slavery. The Loving case was fought  nearly 100 years after the slavery emancipation proclamation.

Loving v Virginia was proceeded and followed by many other legal presidencies adjudicated by the supreme court and supported by The Fourteenth Amendment including, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial school segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) about abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000) regarding the 2000 presidential election, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) regarding same-sex marriage.The foot prints of the Fourteen Amendment are also solidly ensconced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its 16th Article —The right to marriage and Family.

Why is this film important to Bioethics?  The Lovings predicament is a cautionary tell about historical abuse of scientific process in supporting anti-miscegenation practices. LOVING also identifies a victory for the strength of persistent struggle — particularly one having an influence on the understanding not only of humanity but the moral obligations of scientist to do good work, and to monitor its moral implications. 

LOVING is a gentle film—not designed to be a blockbuster but one which will stand the test of time.  

Loving (2016) Trailer:  https://youtu.be/9QYEwlzpa9A

Loving V. Virgina  Interacial and Mixed  documentary HBO Trailer  https://youtu.be/h62ZBiHNJoM trailer

The Constitution of the United States http://constitutionus.com

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/declaration-human-rights/ 

Part II: LOVING, Bioethics and How Miscegenation became a ‘thing’

Photo Courtesy of Mill Valley Film Festival

Long Before Jeff Nichols, writer/director, chose to make the film LOVING (2016),  about a heroic couple of modest means striking a blow for the maintenance of humanity—by ending anti-miscegenation laws in the USA—The field of Eugenics had to be born and the term  ‘miscegenation’ coined. Miscegenation laws were present in many states  of the USA into the 1960s, in defiance of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution and  the Declaration of Human Rights. 
Modern “bioethics” emerged from the documentation of the atrocities associated with both WWI and WWII, and the manipulation of science and technology to serve ‘evil’ rather than beneficence, autonomy and justice. The film Loving speaks to the need to carefully consider the obligations of science. There is no evil science, just bad science and immoral applications. In particular, scientist, and physicians (who are all ultimately researchers) should at least read the Nuremberg Code. The document is a page long with only ten points. 

How did Anti- miscegenation laws come about? Let’s be clear, they were an economic mechanism to oppress slaves and other underclass people and prevent their owning property. This begs the question of how miscegenation became ‘a thing.’

Philosophy and the applied sciences used to be one school—and still were in the 1800s. Philosophy, was not separated from maths, astronomy, medicine and engineering. The footsteps of philosophy still drive scientific method —theory, hypothesis, proof and argument. Francis Galton was born into that time of interface and development of knowledge. Oddly Galton,  a  latter day Renaissance thinker in the  model of Da’Vinci, is attributed with coining the words miscegenation and eugenics. And yes, Galton started out in Medicine, circa 1838. 

In agriculture miscegenation was defined as the “interbreeding of two different species.” Galton’s Cousin Charles Darwin had published the Origin of the Species in the 1850s. Gregor Mendel an Austrian monk had observed variation in pea plants during the same period. Most biology students learned that Mendel is considered the father of genetics. From those works came Galton’s leap implying that human beings’ external appearance could make them different species. 

Galton was a Sociologist, Psychologist, Scientist, Geographer, and Statistician. He looked for proof of the patterns of his cousin and the monk in other aspects of the world — looking for a primary pattern in nature which was repeated. That is what good science does. When you think of Galton, think—regression from the mean — that was among his many contributions or to some of us—tortures. The mathematical models of Mendel for peas and other plants were being extrapolated and converted into statistics applied to human beings.

What came first, racism or the science?  The essence of scientific integrity is not only honesty in hypothesizing, recording and reporting but coming to unbiased conclusions. Galton began considering ‘lessor social' attributes to be apparent in people who looked one way and not another. The espousing that conclusion, for a statistician, had to be an unfounded extrapolation. But he likely knew that even then. 

In 1863, the science of separation, and its conclusions espoused by Galton, was rejected by some as a political tool deciding who should receive the benefits of a society. The difference between animals and people was thought to be decided by humanist to be  “the soul.”  Perhaps the soul is a more nebulous concept than that ‘a scientific certainty’—but also one less likely to bastardize the scientific process. Nonetheless, it was the soul which  ended slavery in the USA and many other parts of the world.  

The post civil war Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution, codified the belief that all “men” were created equal. That was adjusted in the 1900's to include women. The devil remains in the detail. However, it was the 14th amendment, which  applied to the winning of Loving v. the State of Virginia, and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was generations after Galton, Mendel and Darwin.

What is the lesson? Bioethical conflicts often coincide with historically poor scientific understanding, or abuses. However, they coexist with equal and opposite reactions — leaps of moral and scientific process.  Thinking  about how the film LOVING,  based on the lives of Mildred and Richard Loving,end of Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Remember, LOVING is a film  not only about law, but about the debunking of archaic, if ever valid, science.

Galton Memories of My Life, https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=Galton+Memories+of+My+Life+(London:+Methuen,+1908),+pp.+22+-+47.&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8


DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, STANDING @ THE SCRATCH LINE: Bioethics meets real Cross Cultural Competency

Director July Dash (Daughters of the Dust and Scratch Line)
at the MVFF 39 October 14, 2016

As a member of  the National Writers Union and affiliate of  the International Federation of Journalists, it is my profound honor to represent the California Film Institute in presenting  director Julie Dash the Mill Valley Film Festival Award. This award honors the excellence of  her lifetime body of work.” —None of  these words could I have imagined coming from my mouth. But, on October 12, 2016, that is what I said at the 39th Mill Valley film festival. MVFF is one of the longest running Film Festival’s in North America with an audience this year of more than 65,000. 

Recently digitally remastered by the Coleman Library, director Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST aesthetic remains incomparable with a message persistently timely. An African American family prepares to leave their Gullah Island home. They and their descendants have lived on that land since long before the Emancipation Proclamation. Tensions between the power of the familiar and perils of a new existence are made abundantly clear by a matriarch. She is a first degree relative to those brought as slaves from Africa. 

The re-released version of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, screened at the MVFF39, was preceded by the premiere of Dash’s provocative new short film, STANDING @ THE SCRATCH LINE. This new work is a part of the Great Migration Project. It lyrically traces the arrival of the first Africans on the Gullah Island shore their generations of migration from the Gullah Geechee Lowcountry to Philadelphia, PA. The film links the survival of a people to the strengths of the sacred architecture of African American Churches.

Filmmaker Julie Dash’s screen voice is an offspring of the “LA Rebellion”. The LA Rebellion creative movement emerged from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television  during the late 1960s and 1970s. The Rebellion was, and is, the bard of  complex justice issues, while also an anti-venom for racism and classism.

Twenty years after the LA Rebellion, in 1991,  internationally recognized, Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, was the first feature-length film by an African American woman with United States theatrical release. The film coincided with a period when we, in clinical medical ethics, were defining the importance of cross-cultural communication in medicine — particularly at the edges of life — birth and death. 

The battle was to get an understanding of race class and culture into the medical curriculum. 
In a real way Ms. Dashs work help to combat health disparity across race, class and culture. Her's is an anthropological short hand bundling the reality of what had before been like talking only about the reflection of stars — Now, one can actually show the celestial body of cultural complexity to colleagues and say,  This is part of what you are working with when you diagnose a person with a life threatening illness, with its fears, attendant loss of family and culture. Director Julie Dash manages to demonstrate that a culture can be simultaneously different from others, while expressing universal concerns.

Other works by Ms. Dash are THE ROSA PARKS STORY,  INCOGNITO, FUNNY VALENTINES, LOVE SONG and SUBWAY STORIES. Coming soon is her film  TRAVEL NOTES OF A GEECHEE GIRL, about writer- actor-griot-culinary anthropologist Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.


Standing@the Scratch Line https://vimeo.com/180110116

Julie Dash official website: http://juliedash.tv


LA LA LAND and BIOETHICS: Aspiration, Casuistry and Musical Mimetics

La La Land Opening Night Mill Valley Film Festival 2016
Mark Fiskin(CFI/MVFF), Damien Chazelle (director), 
Justin Hurwitz (composer), Emma Stone (actor) 
The opening and closing films of the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival were both romances, different from one another as night and day. The starting film was about elusive love. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND is a romantic musical whose comedic elements facilitate the dramatic. It feels like a cross between Preston Sturges' Sullivan’s Travels and Singing in the Rain. LA LA LAND’s enduring impression is a sensibility for people defined by creative aspirations.

The title, LA LA LAND, is a double entendre. The more concrete allusion calls up the musical note ‘La,’ as in the Rogers and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music, “La is just to follow so.” What marks the feature as a high concept film is the other meaning— the rarely attainable, though ubiquitous, high hopes for creative success in the unreal Los Angeles — while moving into the developmental stage of adult intimacy.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone act (and dance) in subtle ways. Their performances are beyond being the coat hangers for music, choreography, and the exquisite mostly on location scenery. Complexity of the main characters is clarified by the arrival of the co-star, John Legend, at the mid-point of the film. He draws the arrow telling Gosling’s character, a musician, that there is only one path to follow. That way pushes him away from his lover, Stone, a writer.

The opening scene of La La Land is set squarely in one of the plagues of Los Angeles life. The setting, time, and characters shout that you are entering a cross cultural zone, where fantasy is allowed. Replete with classic musical film homages, Justin Hurwitz’s score shares the passion of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, rather than the showmanship of an Arthur Freed musical. We quickly learn the rival gangs are the tensions between the creative aspirations in the heads of each star, fighting for attention and love.

Hurwitz’s uses the advantage of Jazz, Blues and Rock & Roll, having been racially integrated after the glory days of the classic 1940s and 50s musicals, to broaden the range of emotions. The love theme of La La Land represents the magical inner voice of the protagonist’s relationship. When you hear this film’s music forty years from now, be forewarned, if it made you cry this year, it will then. 
How does a Romantic Musical help Bioethics?

LA LA LAND shows tension between the ‘competing goods’ of the noble aspirations of intimacy and creativity. The film is a captivating metaphor, showing a version of goal attainment reached through an unexpected narrative path. Other creative intents are not unlike those of a surgeon in training, or a doctoral student dreaming to cure global warming, in conflict with raising their families. The shared challenge is not aiming for competence but greatness.

Casuistry can exist beyond ‘the word.’ When visuals are added to written narratives additional neuropsychological features join ‘the case’ presented. Even a single photograph is a visual narrative. Music, as in LA LA Land, is interpreted even more subjectively than visual cues. “Research into the bodily basis of musical meaning has focused on conceptual metaphor and image theory but the processes whereby embodied experience becomes relevant to music conceptualization remains largely unexplained.” 

We do not know exactly why the blues is cathartic, for some and not others though we know it is so. Related are examples where sound, say of a bottle of soap falling, has been known to result in smelling soap for some people sans attendant visual stimulus. It is clear that the sound of music has a narrative language specific to its own form. 

The core of the “musical mimetic hypothesis” suggests we understand sounds in comparison to sounds we have made ourselves, and this process of comparison involves tacit imitation, or mimetic participation, which in turn draws on the prior embodied experience of sound production.  That is second hearing draws a reaction to the first hearing of the primary sound and stimulates a similar feeling and physical response. Each note delves into the influence that note has had in one’s life. If this is true, clearly the Casuistic case for LA LA LAND is maximized by the music itself.

LA LA LAND is a choreography of the mind, expressed by over a hundred dancers, actors and musicians along with nearly as many crew. It takes a lot of nerve and talent to wield  such a team. Luckily for the audience composer Hurwitz choreographer Mandy Moore (Silver Lining's Playbook), cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle), and writer-director Damien Chazelle are chutzpah endowed. LA LA LAND is a film to watch and hear. It opens in theaters December 16, 2016.

Casuistry uses cases or narratives to illustrate ethical conflicts and their resolutions. Despite the potential abuse of Casuistry, Medicine and Law are both fields where cases are applied to ethical decision making. Religious books, literature, drama and film can also be used in Casuistic analysis of moral dilemmas. At its core, Casuistry requires solving a second unrelated case by using the logic of the original narrative — so stories need not be medical or science based to argue Bioethics. 

Albert Jonsen and Stephen Toulmin, The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning, Berkeley, U California Press (1990)


Cox, Arnie, The mimetic Hypothesis and Embodied Musical Meaning, Musicae Scientiae Fall 2001 5: 195-212,http://msx.sagepub.com/content/5/2/195.abstract  Accessed November 3, 2016


Part I: Bioethics meets Hidden Figures at Mind the Gap “When you strike woman you strike rock”

Elizabeth Gabler (President, Fox 2000)

Mind the Gap HIDDEN FIGURES Panel

Hidden Figures is a fiction film adapted from Margo Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book by the same  name. It is about a group of African American women who are mathematicians. As if that were not exceptional enough, they work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Langley, Virginia. But— wait for it— in the early 1960s. A true story— 

This movie is an homage to women taking their rightful place in the history of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). However, now understanding ‘art’ unleashes scientific capacity — this film about Sci-tech is also about STEAM. It is no accident most of the women depicted in the book and film were educated at Historically Black Colleges and Universities known then, and now, for pushing students to excellence in all fields. 

Hidden Figures focuses on a small pertinent aspect of the source book— how a cadre of Black women helped launch the Mercury 7 astronauts. Set in 1961, the back drop is a pivotal period in the United States civil rights struggle, the imbalances of the Cold War, and the peri-WWII legacy pushing women into the previously male dominated work force. The collaboration between the characters in the film mirrors that of the production team which developed the project. 

The California Film Institute, parent of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), has an ongoing initiative to improve the status of women behind the camera in the film industry. The initiative is called Mind the Gap. At MVFF39, October 8, 2016, Mind the Gap programing provided a sneak preview and panel dialog about Hidden Figures. Film professionals working on the project were present for a chat hosted by Variety’s Melina Saval. Participants included Elizabeth Gabler (president, Fox 2000), Mimi Valdez (Executive Producer), Mandy Walker (director of photography), and Marissa Paiva (Vice President, Fox 2000). These production partners and crew are deeply committed to providing a platform for the best films about and by women in a racially, culturally and gender expansive context. They are being the change they want to see.

The phrase that comes to mind about Hidden Figures is “When you Strike Woman you strike rock.” That’s a calculated intertextual reference to women’s struggle inserted by the filmmakers. The screenwriter, Allison Schroeder, and director of photography Mandy Walker along with Melfi, made fine compositional and emotional choices. Among those choosing a well informed visual aesthetic. DP Walker explained, during the Mind the Gap session, research included exploring the documentary series Eyes on the Prize; works of Concerned Photographer Gordon Parks; and those of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee photographer Danny Lyons

Hidden Figures. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4846340/ accessed October 11, 2016

The Congressional STEAM Caucus. http://stemtosteam.org/events/congressional-steam-caucus/ accessed October 9, 2016.

Shetterly, Margo Lee.  https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062363596/hidden-figures accessed October 8, 2016

Mind the Gap http://www.mvff.com/mind-the-gap/ accessed October 2, 2016