Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"The Blitz: London's Longest Night" aired on PBS, recreates London on Dec 29, 1940

On March 31, PBS Maryland Public Television re-aired Louise Osmand’s Channel 4 film (2005) “The Blitz: London’s Longest Night”, giving a chronicle of the night of December 29, 1940, when about 138 German bombers targeted The City of London, causing over one square mile to be destroyed with 24000 incendiaries. The link for the documentary is here.  The main narrator is Dilly Barrow.

The film reenacts the events for several families and individuals, some of whom volunteered to watch the St. Paul Cathedral or the other areas as around Fleet Street, where London’s press was located. The Germans apparently turned on civilians in London after the Brits had struck Berlin earlier in 1940 as part of the Battle of Britain.

There is a lot of discussion of the interior construction of the Cathedral (and the history going back to Christopher Wren, also significant for the College of William and Mary in the US), and its feared vulnerability, and the effort that it took to spare it, but it stood tall during the raids.

The Blitz 1940-1941 Tribute Video (link)

Wikipedia attribution link for Blitz Aftermath.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"The Real Face of Jesus?" on the History Channel

On Tuesday March 30 the History Channel presented the two-hour documenrtary “The Real Face of Jesus?”with supporting article (web url) here.

Ray Downing, of Studio Macbeth, who had worked on the face of Lincoln, uses computer graphics and 3D technology (rather like that of the movies and Pixar) on the Shroud of Turin, eventually to reconstruct a face at the end of the film. A cloth from Spain was also used.

Reverse engineering (radially and directionally) from the image cannot reconstruct the image of the shroud, but you could use “slices” or slivers of light, rather like the approximations of integral calculus.

Early in the show the scientists remark on how much bleeding and brutalizing the man had endured.

The Shroud of Turin is an “instruction set” for building a face.

The Fox News Channel offers this YouTube video on the Shroud:

MSNBC has a detailed article here.

Wikipedia attribution link for older picture of Shroud

Monday, March 29, 2010

PBS Frontline: "Obama's War"

In early October 2009 PBS Frontline aired the one-hour documentary “Obama’s War”, produced, written and directed by Martin Smith with assistance from William Cohen (former defense secretary?) The link is here.

Some time after President Obama takes office, a Marine company crosses into flatter southern Afghanistan from southern Pakistan, and is followed by a civilian but Islamic journalist. The Marines question villagers as to where the Taliban is and try to get them to farm their land and go to market. On Day 1, a 20 year old lance corporal is shot and killed, when he had just written home that he was going to fight a battle that his grandkids would study in school – a tribute to lineage that he would never have.

The middle part of the film covers the political corruption of Karzai’s government, where public officials still milk people for money.

The film has some of the up-frontness of "Hurt Locker".

Toward the end, the film covers the waffling of the Pakistani military in the new environment.

Frontline has a rather minimalist way of embedding a video, below, but it still works (taking you to the film -- segment "Connecting with the People" -- I like the concept "connecting"!). . The film is also available on instant play from Netflix.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

AC360 documentary: "Gangs of Hollenbeck"

On Saturday, March 27, Anderson Cooper 360 presented a one-hour documentary “Gangs of Hollenbeck”, about the “rule of gangs” on some parts of Los Angeles, to the point of constituting what police call “domestic terrorism.” The program went into the sociology of the “code of silence” or “snitch” mentality, which is very difficult to break in some low income communities where there is a history of societal abuse for decades. The main link for the report is here. The report makes Hollenbeck look like an area beyond law and order, beyond civilization itself. Is life worth living in a zone like this?

Since the blog post says "5 years later" I'm not sure if this is the original report or a second installment. This appears to be a new report based on following up on a long-standing story.

Hollenbeck comprises about 15 square miles east of downtown Los Angeles, with 34 gangs known to police.

One police chief said that he has lost only one witness in years, but Anderson reported a homeless man who was “executed” to prevent him from testifying. The "drive by" is the ultimate act of real cowardice.

Marine Corps members with shaved heads have been mistaken for members and been gunned down in the area, which is a bit like how Iraq was.

Later the documentary covered more hopeful signs, such as members "breaking away" and an employment agency for ex-gang members. A Catholic priest Father Boyle runs Homeboy Industries to employ the members, and offer services even like tattoo removal. He says that all of this comes from deprivation (having little to share) and an "absence of hope".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ABC 20-20 presents actor who lives with wild tigers

Kimlberly Launier and Clem Taylor have the news story for last night’s 20-20 broadcast about big cats:, “Real-Life Tarzan Shares Home With Big Cats: Former 'Tarzan' Actor Says Spiritual Connection to Lions, Tigers Protects Him and Family”, link here.

The story presented Steve Sipek, former actor who made the Spanish Trazan, and his home with many tigers; he even allows his son to sleep with them. The tigers seemed to bond to humans much the way cats and even dogs do.

Dave Salmoni, who appears on Animal Planet who “joined” a pride of lions in one episode, appeared on the show and warned about the unpredictability of wild animals. Yet on that show he had gained the confidence of the “alpha male” of a lion pride by effective body language.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CNN Special Investigations: Small California town demonstrates public policy problems with choosing toxic waste sties

Kyra Phillips on cnn Special Investigations with Campbell Brown examined birth defects in a small California Central Valley town (Kettleman City, in the flat San Joaquin Valley) near a toxic waste dump. The city had been identified by the state as a community less likely to object to a waste facility, because it is low income and Catholic.

The waste site at issue is four miles outside the town and is operated by a company named Waste Management ("Think Green" site -- note that domain TLD’s matter; try putting in edu).

In the past year, ten babies have been born with birth defects, including cleft palate.

The story, by Heather O’Neill, was aired Tuesday March 23.

Note: some CNN videos recently seem overcropped, at least on Internet Explorer; not all the picture shows.

Picture: VPI campus

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Discovery launches "Life" with Oprah Winfrey as host

The first two episodes of the new 11-part “Life” series, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, premiered Sunday March 21 on the Discovery Channel. The first two episodes were called “Challenges of Life” and “Reptiles and Amphibians”.

The first film opened with the image of a loveable cat – a cheetah, in fact, fending off an ostrich. One of the most fascinating concepts was the idea that parenting sometimes requires sacrifice in nature. A certain female octopus looks for a lair to lie down in to lay her fertilized eggs, which she nurtures, and then she dies. Procreation becomes a moral obligation.

The ability of monkeys to use tools and teach their young to use them is presented, and they look surprisingly “human.”

The Filmmakers traveled to the ends of the earth to make this film, often underwater.

The second film showed how a komodo dragon bites a buffalo, which slowly weakens and dies from the venom, attracting a school of dragons that will feast on the carcass, a particular kind of horror.

The site for the show is here.

Discovery had another series “Planet Earth” that became the subject of Disney’s film “Earth” (see movies blog, April 23, 2009).

Here is a “First Look” YouTube video from Discovery Channel for the new series.

Friday, March 19, 2010

ABC 20-20: documentary about Internet chat room "love triangle" with two double-crosses ("Talhotblond")

On Friday March 19, ABC 20-20 with Chris Cuomo and Elizabeth Vargas aired its version of the story of the one-hour documentary film “Tall Hot Blond” (actually just one word "TalHotBlond" as in a screenname) directed by Barbara Schroeder, who often appears in the 20-20 show,

The movie tells the story behind the shooting of Brian M. Barrett, 22, in the parking lot at Dynabrade Corporation near Buffalo in September 2006.

The background story concerns a 46 year old man who posed as a teenage "Marine sniper" on the Internet with an 18 year old high school senior (the “THB”), who herself was an unbalanced mother putting her daughter’s life on the Internet.

The man’s behavior would not have been illegal (as in Chris Hansen’s Dateline series) because the target as 18 and he believed she was 18. Most people would see it as “creepy.” The movie also illustrates the perils of chat rooms and of “online reputation”, often pursued on the Dr. Phil show (“Internet Mistakes”, etc.) and discussed in the media by entrepreneurs like Michael Fertik and his “Reputation Defender” company.

The film has a website here.

Imdb says that the full film runs 83 minutes and will be distributed by MSNBC (and has been or will be shown there). The production company is Answer Films. According to a review by Lou Michel in the Buffalo City News ("Film’s focus is fatal Web love triangle"), MSNBC aired the film on Dec 10, 2009, and his review is here. The 20-20 show gives a supplementary and condensed but annotated interpretation of the story, much like a DVD featurette.

The ABC News story is here.

It’s rather unusual to see material from an investigative documentary film appearing on competing major networks, linked with competing studios (Disney v. Universal).

Update:  Jan. 21, 2015

Paramount Pictures (that is, probably Paramount Vantage) released a 75-minute version of the film, "Talhotblod" directed by the same Barbara Schroeder on Netflix Instant Play.  The woman who used her own daughter as the subject of the subtrefuge was Mary Shieler (Huffington story) and the guy who went to prison for 20 years for Second Degree Murder, himself pretending to be a young man when he was really impotent in middle age marriage, was Thomas Montgomery.  Foxnews has a story about the case here,

The documentary argues for laws that would make this subtrefuge illegal, but how could you craft them narrowly enough?  This is one reason why Facebook insists on "real name" account names.
IMDB shows a Lifetime dramatic film on the same story made in 2012, directed by Courtney Cox, with Garrett Dillahunt as Thomas Montgomery. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Flash Forward" mid-season premier (2 hours): "There's going to be another blackout": great views of Commercia Park

“There’s going to be another blackout.”

Maybe that’s enough to summarize the restart of the ABC miniseries “Flash Forward” with its two-hour intermission premier. That’s Mark’s (Joseph Fiennes) strained recreation of his flash forward. There’s the stuff about Red Panda that the fibbies say didn’t start in Somalia until 1998 (five years after Clinton’s fiasco), not in 1991 when the “towers of Ned” were found.

But the most intriguing part is probably the second half, where the episode in Commerica Park is recreated. We learn that the “survivor” was given “The Ring” to wear, literally from Toiken.

Somehow, physicists need to figure out how to protect consciousness from singularities in space time.

The physics mini-prof Simon Campos (German actor Dominic Monaghan) loses a finger in an extreme rendition, but he is too young to have lost more, yet – for those who watch closely. The scenes in both Toronto and Detroit (with a plane flying over, weeks before Christmas Day) are interesting.

Here’s a distantly related YouTube by MrYahay, “a scientific explanation of God”.

The script of tonight’s re-premier of referred to the “knowledge of good and evil” – sought by physicists, and the idea that the Flash Forward wasn’t about any one of us, it was about all of us (as explained in the “Parable of the High Rise Window Washer”). Rick Warren had always said “it isn’t about you.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oprah Winfrey will have to defend herself in court this time!

According to an AP story by Maryclaire Dare, republished March 17 by MSNBC, Oprah Winfrey will have to defend a defamation lawsuit brought against her by the former headmistress of her girls’ school in South Africa. A judge (in a long opinion) in Philadelphia ruled Tuesday that the trail must go forward and that there was reasonable cause to believe defamation had occurred. The link is here. She must appear in court in Philadelphia March 29.

According to the Media Bloggers Association, there was an original complaint against the Huffington Post and a couple of other parties, story (“MBA counsel assists in resolution of "Oprah headmistress" lawsuit against bloggers”) here. This was resolved out of court without money payment.

In 1996, Oprah had been sued by the Texas Cattleman’s Association for a comment she made about beef and mad cow, and defended herself successfully, invoking free speech and that she was merely stating an opinion (the so-called “Opinion Rule”). That suit was considered a “SLAPP” suit. The 1998 story (“Free Speech Rocks”) is (web url) here.

Picture: from the Washington DC health care rally March 9

Note: On Sat. March 20, CNN legal analysts (Richard Herman) said that Oprah will win easily in court this time, just as she did with the Texas case. Free speech does rock, and so does The Opinion Rule.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FX "Justified" starts with "Fire in the Hole": a US Marshall hunts extremists in strip-mine country

Tuesday March 16 FX Networks premiered “Justified” with the episode “Fire in the Hole”. US Marshall Raylen Givins (Timothy Olyphant, not quite the same as Tommy Lee Jones) goes back to his native Harlan County KY to counter an Aryan nation extremist group.

The group resembles those from Idaho as portrayed in the media. There is plenty of skinhead and tattoo visible, hardly resembling our idea of manliness.

The main site for the show is here. The videos here require "unverified" age confirmation to view.

There is also a “scavenger hunt” "Justified the Pursuit" contest here.

The name of the series reminds me of one of Justin Timberlake’s CD’s (an accident to be sure). But the word here refers to the use of weapons in law enforcement, in self-defense or against those resisting arrest.

The script makes reference to strip-mining and mountaintop removal. Eastern Kentucky is one of the most seriously damaged areas by strip-mining for coal in the nation.

JustifiedFX offers this YouTube video.

The initial episode ran one hour (from 10 PM EDT), with 12 minutes of previews, taking it to 11:12 PM, when it repeated.

Monday, March 15, 2010

CBS "60 Minutes": Author Michael Lewis examines Wall Street Collapse; how a man with Asperger's figured out the house of cards

On Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes, in a report by Steve Kroft, presented an “autopsy” of the Wall Street collapse, in the view of author Michael Lewis, whose financial books have done him well enough to afford a home in Berkeley CA with a wife and three kids. His new book is "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine". New York: W.W. Norton & Co.. ISBN 0-393-0723-1. The full CBS story is here. Lewis argues that Wall Street executives followed a herd mentality (with an excessive focus on short term profits) and became blinded to their own longer term best interests. It was capitalism destroying capitalism, but for the most part it was not directly criminal.

The report tells the story of Dr. Michael Burry, a young physician with Asperger’s syndrome, who quit medicine and started a hedge fund, eventually help to invent “credit default swaps”. Burry simply became engrossed in “connecting the dots” and figured out that the whole house of cards would eventually collapse. Employees on Wall Street did not have the proper incentives to look for “the truth.”

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Lewis told CNN that Wall Street became buttoned down in the 90s, toning down excessive personal behavior, but became much more reckless underneath, finally betting everything on leverage and the subprime mortgage market.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Discovery: "Who Framed Jesus?"

On Sunday, March 14, 2010, the Discovery Channel aired a two-hour documentary “Who Framed Jesus”, directed by Mark Lewis, link. The Washington Post TV guide listed it as beginning at 9 PM EDT, but it began at 8 PM EDT.

The early part of the film covers the story of Judas in detail, and compares each Gospel’s account. Judas become increasingly more villainous in each Gospel, when considered in the order written, with John almost regarding him as possessed.

The Pharisees were humiliated by Jesus’s ability to make them turn their “book smarts” onto themselves.

Ciaphus was perhaps incensed that Jesus had overturned the moneychangers’ tables, on his turf in the Temple. But there is disagreement among scholars about his real attitude. Pilate may have led Ciaphus to believe that Pilate would handle Jesus “fairly”. The documentary goes into what the Gospels say comparatively in some detail.

It’s hard to understand why the Roman’s took an unarmed following of Jesus as a credible political threat. If Jesus were blogging today, would he be a political threat?

Was there a Jewish crowd calling for Jesus to be killed? The documentary gets into areas covered by Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” (New Market).

The film then examines the political career of Herod, who would want to squelch anyone who preached “justice”. The Gospel writers might have diluted the roles of Herod and Pilate to make their accounts acceptable in the Greco-Roman world.

Jesus may have planned his own death, when he says to Judas “do what you have to do, and do it quickly.” This account may come from “The Gospel of Judas”, a National Geographic film in 2006 by James Barrat.

Here's a YouTube on "The Book of Judas Gnostic"

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Her Name Was Steven": documentary about Florida city manager who lost job after starting transgender change

On Saturday, March 13, CNN Presents aired “Her Name Was Steven” about the life of Steven Stanton, “when the image doesn’t match the identity.”

He told his wife that he would feel more like himself if he sometimes dressed as a female. But gradually he became convinced that he was female.

Hehad become city manager of Largo, FL, and done the drills with the men of the fire department. But when the city council learned he was taking hormone therapy to prepare for gender change, it chose to fire him. Largo had considered an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Transgender was harder. “Fire him, or give him some testosterone and move on.” “He’s not a good role model” “Jesus would say fire him.” Unbelievable.

For the immediate sequel, read this story by Carol Lee in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, May 2007, “Steven Stanton Explored Becoming Susan In Sarasota”, link here.

"Susan" (the new name) did not get the Sarasota job, or any city manager job, and the family fell into financial hardship. Susan was served divorce papers. His ex-wife would relate what it felt like to see this masculine man melt away before her eyes (her language was a bit specific).

Toward the end of the film, Susan shows some skepticisin about her own "self-centeredness", if you want to call it that -- she focused on her own inner needs put put her family at great risk, and interesting moral dilemma.

ABC 20-20 presents harrowing report on childhood schizophrenia

On Friday, March 12, 2010, ABC 20-20 presented a one hour special on childhood schizophrenia. The main news story is by Jay Schadler (the main reporter in the story), Claire Weintraub and Elissa Stohler, along with Elizabeth Vargas and Chris Cuomo. The news story link is (web url) here.

The show focused on two families, one with a thirteen year old girl with two younger sisters, with the oldest girl having several hospitalizations. During a crisis, the mother has to call hospitals to find a bed, and she winds up with 3 weeks at UCLA Medical Center. The father’s health insurance benefits for psychiatric benefits run out, and she has to come home. After several more crises and huge debts, she unexpectedly improves.

One of the sisters goes to a Halloween party as “Alice in Wonderland”, pretending to have fallen through the rabbit hole. But her sister is the “mad hatter” and is in the hospital. The 20-20 report might have been inspired by the recent Walt Disney movie.

Some people could become catatonic, and some grow up to be homeless adults, 25% of whom may be mentally ill.

Schizophrenia can start at any time in life, and sometimes begins in young adulthood. It is particularly tragic in childhood. It may occur in families with no history of mental illness. In some adults, it may happen after head injury, either from accident or even contact sports (as demonstrated in the film "Prodigal Sons" reviewed March 12 on the movies blog).

Elsewhere on my blogs, I have sometimes discussed my “hospitalization” in a psychiatric unit at NIH (National Institutes of Health in Bethesda MD, Clinical Center) in 1962 (an NIH researcher is interviewed in the report). The men were mostly those who had been forced to leave college for “mental health” reasons (in 1962 that could include homosexuality) but the female patients, because of the way they were selected, were much less intact or stable.

Schizophrenia is not the same thing as autism.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"The Mentalist" on CBS: another sleuth, and plenty of dangerous government biological experiments

Just as with yesterday’s posting, “The Mentalist”, on CBS, is another series (like “Psych”) where an “amateur” helps police. Here Simon Baker plays Patrick Jane, the “mentalist” gone private investigator, not exactly of the Magnum PI kind. (Remember how gorgeous Tom Selleck was, in the glory days of the Detroit Tigers?)

On March 11, the show aired an episode called “Code Red” with an intriguing premise. The fibbies (along with some greedy contractors) have developed a biological weapon, a “ cryptovirus” (it sounds more like it needs McAfee or Spysweeper) that destroys the red blood cells of everyone exposed. A female researcher and mother calls saying “I’ve been murdered” because she knows the biology and knows she is going to die.

As the show develops, the police need to ferret out the guilty party who released the virus within the lab. So they tell all the employees of a lockdown, and that their installation (with the employees kept in) will be burned (essentially nuked from a suitcase) to destroy the virus – the same premise as the denouement of the film “The Crazies”, reviewed on my “disaster movies” blog Sunday March 7. The employees are told to call their loved ones during the last three hours of their lives.

The style of the series is like that of typical police series, fast-paced and hip, and a little bit flippant.

Libertarians say, the government will do absolutely anything, because it can.

The official site from CBS is this and it makes prior episodes available “legally”.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

USA's "Psych": A young man with talents in perception; a season finale plays homage to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock

On Wednesday night March 10, USA Network presented the final episode of Season 4 of “Psych”, with the episode titled “Mr. Yin Presents”.

In Pysch, Texas-born James Roday plays Shawn Spencer, a young man with focused powers of observation (more or less like those that we might expect from someone with Asperger’s syndrome) that come across as psychic. He has trouble getting a job and enhances his self-concept by giving police tips, so good that they become suspicious of him, so eventually he is hired to help them. His is more the kind of talent that would fit into intelligence services like the NSA or CIA, “connecting the dots”, such as with some bizarre hit-style killings of people involved in classified work in suburban Maryland in late 2008.

In the final episode, recurring villain Mr. Yang (Ally Sheedy) sets up some crimes based on famous mysteries by Alfred Hitchcock, especially “Psycho”, “Vertigo” (including excerpts from Bernard Hermann’s famous soundtrack), “North by Northwest”, “Rear Window”, “The 39 Steps”, and “Saboteur”. Some of these films were in black-and-white, but the reenactments (as the “shower scene”) are in garish color. James Roday helped write the episode.

Season 5 will start on USA this summer.

USA has brought us some other interesting series, like “The 4400”.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NatGeo offers video on English crop circles on MSN

National Geographic is offering a 4-minute video on crop circles in a county in southwestern England on MSN and Bing, with link here. No embed seemed to be offered. It wasn’t immediately apparent when it might air on the NatGeo channel.

At issue is whether two older Englishmen are responsible for cutting the crop circles as a 40-year hoax. Some evidence was offered that this could not be a hoax, and furthermore the affected area is visited frequently by helicopters.

But it’s hard to imagine what kind of message aliens could intend to communicate with the designs. Remember Shyamalan’s movie “Signs”.

Wikipedia attribution link for crop circle picture.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Zakaria interviews Petraeus on "don't ask don't tell" on his GPS program

General David Petraeus, from the central Command in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, was interviewed on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Global Public Square) today.

Petraeus was asked about his reported support for lifting “don’t ask don’t tell” regarding gays in the military. His answer, below, was a bit equivocal.

He said that his experience was with civilian CIA operatives who happen to be gay (and who have to be openly gay to maintain security clearances). I’ve discussed the indirect effect of the ban on gay civilians in sensitive situations on these pages before, and actually am working on a novel manuscript that addresses the issue. It would be a good topic for Hollywood to take up. He said that he focuses on the performance of the individual, and favored regulations that focused only on conduct. He would not specify what he would tell the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Zakaria spoke optimistically about the likely future progress in Iraq, especially as an oil producer; he also discusses Iran (the recent crackdowns on dissent), and Pakistan (the Swat valley and the fragile military, which nevertheless arrested an American Al Qaeda operative recently (Adam Gadahn) -- ut-oh -- the latest stories are that the Pakastani's aren't sure it's him now.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Amanpour on CNN hosts new documentary on the world history of genocide

On Saturday March 6 Christiane Amanpour’s documentary “Scream Bloody Murder” (2 hours) aired as a member of the series “CNN Presents”. The documentary is an examination of the history of genocide, and starts at Auschwitz, which I personally visited in May 1999. The link is here, and has many sublinks to individual reports. The Geneva Convention link from 1948 on the subject is here (I think we were told about this in Basic Training in the Army).

One of the longest segments tells the story of Raphael Lemkin (who invented "the word"), who tried to warn Poland about Hitler in 1933 but was not listened to. He escaped to the United States, but his entire family was lost when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.

But one of the most chilling concerned the Khmer Rouge, which was a kind of “Cultural Revolution” on steroids, not only eliminating book learning and intellectuals, but going back to national purity. Ted Koppel has covered this in the late 1970s and had even interviewed Pol Pot. This was the subject of the 1984 film “The Killing Fields.”

Christiane then goes on to cover the 1993 Balkan wars, where the Bosnian Serbs went after the Muslims in the area, a pre-history to 9/11 that we often forget about.

She also covers "Hotel Rwanda" ("the tall trees") and the Sudan and Darfur ("The Devil on Horseback"). At the very end, the documentary shows the opposing sides in the Rwanda conflict working together in forgiveness making peace baskets.

The "CNN Presents" reports tend to be interrupted with breaking news, and don't have the continuity of theatrical documentary films. Yet CNN could work with a theatrical distributor (like Disney's Miramax Films) to format these documentaries for Landmark and similar arthouse chaims.

Here is a 2001 interview by Amanpour with then-president Khatami of Iran in November 2001, shortly after 9/11. None of tonight’s show has embeds yet, but probably will later.

If you have trouble connecting to the interview, go here. It's important.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

CNBC: Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomers!

Thursday March 4 CNBC aired “Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomers!”, a two-hour documentary about the baby boomer generation, link here.

I was born in 1943, so by definition I missed it by three years, but I pretty much fit in to the mindset: we were right about the injustices, but the prosperity we built was not as sustainable as we thought, even mathematically. Brokaw is a member of the “greatest generation” which subordinated the self to a goal greater than self, with no end in sight, during the Great Depression and World War II. But the Baby Boomers, with all their peripetia, did seem to focus on goals defined by them.

Some time was spent interviewing actor Tom Hanks (“Castaway”, “Philadelphia”, “Forest Gump”). At the end, Bill Clinton was interviewed. Also interviewed was an Army Reservist deployed at 58, and a laid-off student loan executive at 58 whose life style had been reduced to a one room apartment.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Roger Ebert appears on Oprah; ABC 20-20 aires "Before They Were Famous" as a pre-Oscar show

On Tuesday, March 2, Oprah Winfrey hosted a visit by Roger Ebert, recovered from facial and jaw surgery following tyroid cancer. Ebert demonstrated talking through his computer, which can now simulate his own voice. His wife was present. The show demonstrated a typical day where they view about three movies. On that particular day he was viewing “The Ghost Writer”. The show also demonstrated that he ate alone and had to be tube fed due to the loss of his jaw.

On Tuesday ABC 20-20 also aired a one hour documentary “Before They Were Famous” The preview video is here. The show included a tape of an awkward moment for Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”) as a cheerleader before she graduated from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA in 1982 (I graduated from there in 1961). Later it showed Matt Damon (“Invictus”, “The Informant” and the menacing thriller about a pandemic, “The Contagion,” coming in 2011) as a teen dancing and acting as he came of age in Massachusetts. The show presented a black-and-white excerpt with a young Jeff Bridges from "The Last Picture Show" (1971) as well as the recent hit "Crazy Heart". At the end of the show the host challenged the audience, that anyone could be on next year’s show after coming out with next year’s unknown film to get an academy award nomination! I take the challenge (“Do Ask Do Tell” anyone?)

Oprah Winfrey will host a pre-oscar special on ABC March 3 at 10 PM EST. The link for the special preview is here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

PBS American Experience: "Dolley Madison"

On Monday, March 1, 2010, some PBS stations presented the “American Experience” documentary “Dolley Madison”, about the “first” First Lady, and wife of the fourth president.

The link with videos is here.

Dolley is credited with having made Washington an important city socially. She was First Lady when the British burned Washington, including the White House, in 1814. Only a huge thunderstorm quenched the fire. Many in Congress wanted to move the capital to Philadelphia, but Dolley was instrumental in keeping the capital here and rebuilding Washington.

After James Madison’s death, Dolley fell into debt, and had to sell of Montpelier, bit by bit, to pay off debts, mismanaged by her son of a first marriage. She even had to sell off slaves, against her husband’s will. Eventually she would move back to Washington and spend the last twelve years of her life in a changed city, as the time of the Civil War would approach.

Picture: I visited Montpelier in April 2006, during its restoration. It is reachable off US 29 north of Charlottesville.