Tuesday, August 31, 2010

President Obama marks the official end of the Iraq War II

President Obama addressed the nation tonight on all major networks at 8 PM, on the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, formally ending a war that had started on March 19, 2003, the beginning of which I watched at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis. I still remember it. "Operation Iraqi Freedom is over."

The responsibility for maintaining order does not end, however, as many advisors remain. And many media reports have discussed the poor infrastructure, even if sectarian violence has calmed down. Many homes in Baghdad have electricity less than six hours a day.

The president also addressed the need for America to rebuild itself at home.

David Gergen and Fareed Zakaria gave commentary after the speech. Gergen remarked that the cost of caring for veterans may not max out for another half century. No one expected the multiple tours or “stop loss” or “backdoor draft” during the height of the war.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

NBC's 62nd Primetime Emmys; television writing is harder!

Jimmy Fallon is making “nice” as host of the 62nd Primetime Emmys, according to an AP story on MSNBC , link  as one of the presenters announced he was gay.

Some stories can be told only on television, a presenter said.

The running results is of course best tracked at the Emmys' site here. Why is it held in August?

It’s interesting that HBO movies are recognize don the Emmys, not the Oscars. For example, Al Pacino got an award for “You Don’t Know Jack” as one presenter said Kevorkian could be his friend but not his doctor.

Temple Grandin” (about autism, from HBO, directed Mick Jacson) won the award for best television-made movie. It's in my Netflix rental queue, DVD available mid September 2010.

My favorite “FlashForward” has so far won just one award, for stunt coordination. Nevertheless, I found the concept fascinating and it had a real hook. There is going to be a real Blackout some day.

I look forward to Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” soon.

I suppose it is harder to come up with a complete series and make it work than a feature film. Television writing has to fit into time spaces for episodes exactly. “Smallville” had enormous viewer hook in its first couple of seasons, and then ventured away from its “don’t ask don’t tell” premise (with respect to extraterrestrial origins) back to comic book stuff. You wind up wondering if Tom Welling could make it as a major league pitcher. Other favorite series of mine in the past are “Everwood”, “The 4400”, and “Kyle XY”, "Numb3rs", and the sleeper "Jake 2.0", and maybe even NBC’s own “Surface”. But “Heroes” didn’t work that well.

It’s good to see NBC host this. I worked there 1974-1977.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More ABC "Secrets of the Mind": what makes people "bad"

ABC’s “Secrets of the Mind” (in the Primetime Live series) continued Aug. 25 with an examination of the physiology of the brains of psychopaths. The actual content of the interviews was quite disturbing, and one prisoner admitted that the reporter was talking to “Hate” and the inability to experience Love. But it seems that both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala control the both the intellectual processing of right and wrong, and the ability to feel shame and guilt, and to have a conscience.

But at least one researcher, raised in a nurturing environment, found that his brain pattern matched those of some sociopaths, yet he had turned out well.

In another case, a professional wrestler had gone on a violent spree and detailed scans showed brain damage from concussions in the same area. lic

The findings could have implications for the idea of criminal cupability, and our ethical notions about personal responsibility. But for me, "personal responsibility", like Honor, is an absolute.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Space Probe" episode on "The Universe" on History Channel shows a lot of Titan

Tonight (Aug 26) the History Channel “The Universe” series aired “Space Probe”, summarizing the results of unmanned spaceships visiting Venus, Mars, and particularly Titan (Huygens) in our own solar system, and describing how microwave technology could speed up probes to the point that a journey to Mars might take only about 8 hours, the time it takes to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The last part of the program showed how a shielded probe can explore the coronal mass ejections of the Sun, a possible threat to Earth.

The show described the collection of materials from comets and space dust, finding possibly amino acids, actually some dust from nearby stars. It’s possible that life is seeded to planets from comet dust in some systems.

The program said that right now it would take about 100000 years to reach the nearest star with today’s technology, but that should improve soon.

Here is NASA's link for Kepler and the search for habitable planets. And here is an MSN story by Alan Boyle about a Kepler space probe finding.

BBC YouTube video on Titan.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Discovery: "Surviving the Cut": "Air Force Pararescue"

The Discovery Channel on Wed. Aug. 25 aired an episode of “Surviving the Cut”, this one being the Extended Training Day for Air Force Pararescue. The motto for the group is “so another may live.”

Less than 10% of airmen survive the entire course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. But the climax of the event is the 21 ETD, a marathon of events, including many water events, which results in many more washouts for “failure to train.” The most dreaded event may be the “buddy breathing event”, which would simulate the extreme stress of rescuing someone from high seas.

The show described with it is like to pass out and to drown, going hypoxic first. Sebastian Junger had provided the same description in his 1998 book “The Perfect Storm.”

Later, the men have to demonstrate actual rescues under combat conditions.

14 of 23 individuals survived the day that started at 2 AM and ended at 11 PM.

They still face two years of training until they actually join the pararescue team in combat. Are females admitted?

What unit cohesion!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spike Lee's "If Good Is Willing, and Da Creek Don't Rise" about New Orleans five years after Katrina

Spike Lee’s new “joint” or HBO documentary about New Orleans, now five years after Hurricane Katrina, is the four hour, two part film “If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise”, Part I opening at 9 PM Monday Aug. 23 on HBO, with link here. The first film in 2006 was “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts”.

The film emphasizes the politics of rebuilding or rezoning various areas of the city, sometimes with political motivations, possibly gentrification, possibly driving the poor people out.

There is a lot of discussion of the health hazards (such as formaldehyde) in the FEMA trailers.

New Orleans, the film says, cannot be “reborn” even because of a catastrophe making New Orleans a bathtub shrine. It has a history of purifications, going back to a yellow fever epidemic before the Civil War (also a subject of a movie

The second night of the film concentrated on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and paraodied the "beyond petroleum" nickname.  The second half also mentioned "mountaintop removal" regarding stripmining for coal.

Picture: Actually from Bay St. Louis MS, Feb. 2006 (mine).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CNN: "New Orleans Rising"; NBC Dateline: :Katrina: The First Five Days"

On Sunday, August 22, “CNN Presents” aired “New Orleans Rising: Five Years Later”, and documented the return of many residents to the Ponchartrain Park area. The CNN link (with student and teacher guides) is here (CNN has a licensing program to allow schools to show the film for one year.) Actor Wendell Price was instrumental in organizing the recovery. In some cases, houses were gutted and remodeled (at a cost of $300000 sometimes), in other cases, manufactured housing was brought in. The film showed the area when residents returned in 2005 after the waters had receded.

But Dateline NBC also aired “Katrina: the First Five Days” with Brian Williams, outlining the horrors of the Superdome and later the Convention Center. Newsmen (including Williams himself) appeared before the government, and soon newsmen were asking why the National Guard wasn’t dropping food and water to victims just as in overseas disasters. Journalists were the pivot point for getting the Bush administration to get the aid going.

Picture: my own visit to New Orleans, Feb., 2006

Friday, August 20, 2010

ABC's "Secrets of the Mind": a man gets "paralysis of sleep" during love

On Thursday Aug. 19 ABC Primetime presented a one hour documentary “Secrets of the Mind”. The first portion of the film showed brain scans of people in different stages of (heterosexual) courtship and falling in love. Stanford has a link on sleep paralysis (website url) here.

Then the show presented the bizarre case of a man who is paralyzed by love, and who develops narcolepsy and a “paralysis of sleep” syndrome. The couple had to remove triggers for these feelings from the walls of their home.

I’ve noticed that myself. When “dating” in the past (particularly in the late 1970s), I would go through various phases of preoccupation with the developing relationship. I think an MRI would have detected changes in my brainwaves and activity. There was one episode in particular that still could make a short film.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Time Travel" on History Channel "The Universe" series

On Thursday Aug. 19, the History Channel’s “Universe” series presented “Time Travel”.

Modern physics, while viewing time as a dimension (and a component of space-time) recognizes an “arrow of time”. That probably means that, while nature might somehow allow someone to travel back in time, nature will not allow a contradiction; it will not allow a time traveler to change history. (The show illustrated this with the “grandfather problem.”) But some physicists believe that all possible courses of history comprise countably many different universes, and idea that in a moral sense seems to provide dangerous temptation. Natural laws regarding entropy may explain the “moral traps” or karma that people fall into, which seem supernatural to the victims.

The “arrow of time” relates to entropy and thermodynamics. Nature is always moving in the direction of greater disorder. If you break a plate, you can’t put it back together without putting more energy into the environment to increase entropy. Think of this idea with respect to climate change!

Previous shows in the series have examined the idea that the speed of light is the fastest possible speed for anything in the universe. As an object accelerates toward the speed of light, it grows more massive and takes more energy to accelerate it, to the point that it takes infinite energy to accelerate it to the speed of light. But the person moving at the increased speed experiences time dilation.

The show examined theoretical ideas for space travel, such as rising inside a space-time-warp, rather like surfing the in the ocean. The space-time-warp must already exist. Another idea is to generate or use existing worm holes.

The last part of the show examined the idea of trip to the nearest star, a triple system called Alpha Centauri. The medium sized B star has the best chance of having an earth-like planet, which might have a hard time having a stable orbit that isn’t too close to that star for life, however (because otherwise the other star would fling it out). The movie “Avatar” supposed that Pandora was a planet around Centauri B. It’s hard to see why we haven’t detected super-earth planets in the nearest system when we’ve detected them in systems 20-30 light years away (Gliese 581 d). At 99.9% of “c”, astronauts would experience 45 days in the 4.3 years it would take to reach “Pandora”.

Wikipedia attribution link for drawing of surface of a hypothetical planet in the Alpha Centauri system,

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Lie to Me" on Fox explores body language analysis as a business in law enforcement

Episode 19 of Season 2 was called “Pied Piper” (directed by Paul McCrane) and presents the Lightman Group with the challenge of possibly having helped the Commonwealth of Virginia execute the wrong person for a crime 17 years ago. The viability of the business is challenged. Eli Loker (Brendan Hines), the “honest man”, says their reputations will be ruined and that the time to start to look for another job is when you have one.

The usual phone calls are recurring, and Lightman has to consider whether they got the wrong man or there is a copycat. A statement made in Latin at the execution (which opens the episode, as if picking up the 50s film “I Want to Live”) by the condemned contains a vital clue.

There is also a scene where Lightman shakes down a home business producing gay “adult” photographs.

The link for watching episodes is here

Fox provides a YouTube interview with Tim Roth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

NBC Dateline on Chicago gangs; CNN on police after Katrina

On Sunday, Auyg.15, NBC Dateline presented a 60 minute special, “America Now: Faces Against Violence”, with Lester Holt, presenting the problem of extreme gang-related violence among youth in some sections of Chicago. There were cases of juveniles shooting each other, even on school busses. A school principal, himself an African American, discussed what it took for the school systems to mentor these kids. The “snitch” problem, often discussed by Anderson Cooper on CNN, was barely mentioned here.

The link is here. I had some trouble with the video loading from NBC.

CNN Presents presented a one-hour special, narrated by Drew Griffin, on the conduct of the New Orleans Police Department during the week after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in documentary called “New Orleans: Shoot to Kill”. The documentary reviewed the squalid conditions in New Orleans the week after the storm, including the looting, and the conditions inside the Super Dome, which Oprah Winfrey once said made her throw up.

Next weekend, CNN will present “CNN Heroes: Coming Back from Katrina” with Anderson Cooper (also “Katrina: Five Years Later”).

Here’s a video “Katrina and Haitian Kids Connect” from CNN, in connection with Global Nomads.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fareed Zakaria GPS hosts important debates about Islam, economy, global warming today

Today, August 15, Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Global Public Square) took on some particularly critical topics.

Jeffrey Sachs appeared and discussed the economic rut, and said that America would have to take tough love and invest in long term sustainability and endure lower standards of living and under employment for many average people for a long time.

The link for the show is here.

Sachs is the author of “The End of Poverty” (2006, Penguin) and “Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet” (2008, Penguin).

Then a panel, including Gavin Schmidt and Pat Michaels, discussed the incontrovertible evidence that Earth is gradually getting warmer because of man’s activity, and there will be a slow trend toward more extreme weather events.

Then Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji (“The Trouble with Islam Today”) had a debate. Hirsi said she was giving up on Islam as we know it, because it is too rooted in abstract ideas about virtue and the afterlife, when she wants a spiritual practice that works in the here and now, which she says that the west is good at. She made the interesting point that the “democratization” of Islam – any imam can issue a fatwa because there is no formal church hierarchy to negotiate before speaking, as there is with the Vatican – actually promotes extremism. That’s a particularly critical point when one considers the arguments about the democratization of debate brought about by the Internet. She also questioned the applicability of a proverbial text written in the 7th Century as authority. (See a review of a compendium on the Koran in the Books blog March 10, 2010).

Manji argued that principled reforms respecting individual freedom should occur within Islam.

Picture: At a W VA store near Seneca Rocks; note the embedded picture of Ayers Rock in Australia.

Friday, August 13, 2010

ABC Nightline: Extravagant personal spending on weddings (also note film "Married at the Mall")

ABC Nightline tonight reported on apparently a recession-proof activity: wedding events. The story by Claire Pederson is “Weddings offer opportunity to splurge despite recession; Americans spent $74 billion just to say “I do” last year, link here.

One middle class suburban New York couple was shown spending $75000, with the families saving for a year.

In the US, fathers of brides used to pay for weddings, but the web has expanded. The social pressure to make weddings extravagant beyond what is “rational” raises interesting questions about the pedestal we need to put marriage on – what about those who don’t go along?

AOL recently has a blurb about what not to say at a wedding to the bride.

Will the trend expand with gay marriage? There is no bride in a male couple, so there is no “father of the bride.”

Try Melody Gilbert's documentary "Married at the Mall" (site), referring to the Mall of America in Bloomington MN, which I saw in Minneapolis in 2002.

Here’s a YouTube with Wagner’s wedding march at a Swedish wedding.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"7 Wonders of the Universe" on History Channel

On Thursday August 12, the History Channel reran “The Seven Wonders of the Solar System” as an episode of “The Universe”.

The most interesting may be #7, the moon Enceladus, a small moon with likely water in the interior, spewing out geysers that freeze into snow. The water is heated possibly by radioactive elements, and gravitational friction.

Number 6 was the rings of Saturn, and #5 was the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, which is actually a high pressure system. #4 is the asteroid belt, with Ceres being a dwarf planet. One of the greatest dangers to civilization would be another crash of an asteroid on the Earth.

#3 was the 80000-foot Olympic Mons volcano on Mars, which grows so large partly because of Mars’s low gravity and lack of plate tectonics.

#2 was the surface of the Sun with its solar storms, the subject of “Magnetic Storms” later tonight on the History Channel.

#1 is, understandably, Earth itself.

YouTube video from European Space Agency: “Olympus Mons: Traces of Life on Mars”

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo from Enceladus.

Monday, August 09, 2010

President Obama speaks about education at UT Austin

Don’t think that President Obama doesn’t tweet. The “live” directory at Whitehouse.gov (from a tinyurl) led to a speech at the University of Texas in Austin, carried on CSPAN.

So he says he wants the US to lead the world in college grads and make sure grads are “career-ready” which is not the same as employers’ idea of “job ready”.

“You should not have to have a Ph D to apply for financial aid”. If you’re married, you don’t have to worry about reporting how much your parents make. (Sounds like the old “Kennedy husband” concept.)

It was also carried on CNN but not MSNBC cable, but it was carried live on msnbc.com.

Note: "from cradle to career"  (not "crater to career").
When he was governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton had been known as an “education governor.”

Wikipedia attribution link for UT Austin picture. 

Saturday, August 07, 2010

History Channel: "Stan Lee's Superhumans": An electric man, a human calculator, a dolphin and a cat

On Thursday, Aug. 5, the History Channel aired an episode of “Stan Lee’s Superhumans”, with the complete episode (not embeddable) available here.

The show does start with a warning, “do not attempt”. And this is not a case of stunt men (even those subbing for Ashton Kutcher). These are people (all of them men in this episode) with unusual biological abilities, similar to those found in other animals, seemingly related to genetic mutations.

The host was a slender young blond man, Daniel Smith, who, attractive enough, set himself up in the show as a physics nerd (eg, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”). He travels to southern India (that’s a great thing about having the job of a journalist like Smith) to meet a man, Raj Mahan Nair (the last name is ironic, isn’t it), whose body can take almost any electric current. Smith, with an electrocardiograph-like machine attached momentarily to his own chest, measures his own skin resistance as 18 ohms, about average for a young adult male. Nair, however, measures at over a million ohms. Not much explanation is offered, other than that some fish and underwater invertebrates (eels and mollusks) have similar electrical properties.

Smith then plays substitute teacher in a San Diego, CA grade school, and introduces the human calculator, Scott Lonsburg, whose abilities to do math calculations in his head, including perpetual calendars, match those of an idiot savant, or of some autistic people, which he is not. The kids work the problems on graphing calculators. Smith then takes an MRI while doing math, and his “normal” MRI is compared to Lonsburg’s, which shows increased activity in the parietal “Area 44” (sounds like Area 51, doesn’t it), and less in other areas. In the workplace (particularly in computing and I.T.), Lonsburg’s abilities would be valuable examples of extreme “mental agility.”

Next, Smith meets a blind man, Juan Ruiz, in Santa Monica, CA. (A particularly cruel epigram comes to mind from my Army days.) But Juan can see by “echo location”, similar to that of bats and even dolphins. They go into a cave in the San Bernadino mountains to explore his ability.

Finally, Smith drives to Houston to meet the world’s strongest man, who can bend steel wrenches and who can tug against a force of over 1000 pounds exerted by a motorcycle at a local biker bar. His strength is analyzed with electrodes pasted to his forearm, and he is found to have unusual ability to control acceleration. (Some animals are very good at this, even the house cat, which is orders of magnitude stronger than either humans or dogs in proportion to mass.) There was a news report of a teenager in Germany with similar strengths.

Well, Smith didn’t produce the idea that “Man can fly”, but some of young Clark Kent’s powers in “Smallville” really could exist in biology. Certainly supersensitive hearing and super strength, and speed. (I don’t know about heat vision, which I wouldn’t want. I remember back in the early 60s that super-strength could take on negative meaning: homosexuals were accused of having hidden “super strength” according to urban legends.)

What about extreme ability in sports, without steroids. Move over, A-rod. What about baseball pitchers like the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, now sidelined with inflammation. They say it’s all physics. In fact, the medical diagnosis of Strasburg’s “injury” seems to come from basic physiology. Although men stop growing in height at about 18, their muscles and tendons and bones grow and thicken slightly up to age 25. Strasburg has just turned 22. At that age, his arm and shoulder haven’t even quite finished growing physiologically. He may not be able to throw 100 mph every five days until about age 24, when his biological, genetically programmed development, finishes.

I wonder what would happen if Tom Welling, who plays Clark Kent (now 23 in the series, at age 33 as an actor) took the mound and pitched against a major league team. They should try it at Anaheim (Disneyland) Stadium.

Stan Lee on Thor in this YouTube video:

Friday, August 06, 2010

"Days of our Lives" seems to be going down the tubes (sleepwalking crimes?)

Well, “Days of our Lives” has really nosedived. Now there is something going on about Hope Williams Brady (Kristian Alfonso) getting drugged with sleeping pills and going on a crime spree. Now she wants to see every last detail of anyone she hurt, including Bo, whom she almost torched.

I don’t think any drug makes people do what they don’t want to do. Although it's true that 20-20 has covered crimes committed by sleepwalkers (and Bellini wrote an opera about sleepwalking).

Remember how “Days” ruined the “Shy and Mighty” character Nick Fallon? (Melanie ruined him.)

The show was pretty good a few years ago when they Marlena on her spree, and then undid everything from the grave and sent everybody to Stefano’s island replica of Salem.

Salem seems to be located simultaneously in several Midwestern or Great Lakes states, but Route 13, which goes north to south through the middle of Ohio, gets mentioned. I never knew that Ohio has a mafia.

Days (Corday,NBC) seems to have a proclivity to fire actors, or run them off. They just suddenly wrote Shawn and Belle out of the script (two of the best characters).

What a tribute to the American heartland. I wonder how much time the soap has left.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

History Channel: "Mars: The New Evidence" in "The Universe"

On Thursday, Aug. 5, the History Channel presented “Mars: The New Evidence”, examining the best possible case for life on Mars, as part of the 2010 "The Universe" series.

The show covered the geological history of the planet, and its loss of a magnetic field, which might have occurred when the “core” froze (as in the film “The Core”). The presence of magnetite molecules could have occurred from small bacteria which use it to navigate. The program discussed the 1996 meteorite found in Antarctica, and also discussed the small quantity of methane that keeps appearing on Mars.

The program debunked the “Sasquatch” photo that appears on the Internet (YouTube below) as a two inch rock.

It showed the lander at the North Pole, and examined the apparent briny water drops that appear on the legs. It also explained that it snows actually water snowflakes as on Earth, but the snow evaporates or sublimes in the thin air when the Sun comes up, despite the extreme cold. That actually can happen on Earth.

The program also demonstrated “dry lightning” in Mars dust storms, which could electrocute or jump-start life.

The History Channel has a video on the Mars Pathfinder here.
Miles Syndey has a video of Mars aliens – just a trick with video editing?

Wikipedia attribution link for Mars Opportunity Rock Water here.

Note: On Aug. 12, the History Channel Universe series will present "Magnetic Storm" -- I guess how a solar storm could knock out the power grid.

Monday, August 02, 2010

CBS "60 Minutes" presents sobering report on Afghanistan from ex CIA agent

On Sunday August 1, CBS 60 Minutes presented the story of CIA operative Henry Crumpton, who , laving left the CIA, described what he contributed in 2001 to defeat the Taliban if Afghanistan. Toward the end of the segment, he issued a dire warning of what the consequences for America could be – at home, included – if we let Afghanistan go back to radical Islam. Of course, the WikiLeaks affair arguably makes it more difficult to control the situation.

Lara Logan conducted the interview for this report. The long title is "Ex-CIA Operative Comes Out of the Shadows: Tells 60 Minutes U.S. Needs Partners On The Ground In Pakistan To Take Out Taliban And Al Qaeda."

Crumpton says that the US did not “invade” Afghanistan. A small number of operatives won the support of locals against the Taliban in many regions.

He said we are refighting for some of the same villages and territory that had been won in 2001. He said if was at his old job at the CIA, he would be inside Pakistan still building relationships with the locals.

Local Afghans said that this was their war, not the US war.

Crumpton says we were tracking Osama bin Laden inside Afghanistan for two years before 9/11, and that the CIA could have eliminated him on the ground with enough permission before 9/11, even during the Clinton years. More effort needs to be expended against other leaders. These are the “forces of darkness” that will surely mount an even greater attack on the US homeland.

In 2005 I received an email from someone who claimed to have taken aviation training with Osama bin Laden in 1984 in upstate New York.  I called the FBI, and an agent in Philadelphia expressed some considerable interest in the email.

Wikipedia attribution link for security map of Afghanistan.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

AMC's "Rubicon" is a subtle series on intelligence work

The new series “Rubicon” on AMC seems like a more low-keyed, somewhat meandering treatment, of the spy genre: how ordinary people can get mixed up in things of existential importance, but we don’t know what they are. The series so far is directed by Allen Coulter and created and written by Jason Horwitch.

Will Travers, a thirtyish yuppie played by James Badge Dale, “inherits” the job of boss at this little spy agency (API) in Manhattan after the mysterious death of the former boss in a commuter train wreck. Up to now, Will has been the super paean, who cracks (malicious) code for a living (although he looks capable of being combative). There are bizarre clues including parking space numbers and disappearing bodies, as well as steganography embedded in crossword puzzles published simultaneously in many newspapers (that doesn’t sound too remarkable for the real world).

The first two episodes are titled “Gone in the Teeth” and “The First Day of School”. Now, the first episode has a “reading of the will” scene that could come right out of John Knowles (fortunately, no orphaned children are “inherited”, a favorite plot idea in Hollywood).

People who work in intelligence can’t talk about what they do (much less blog or tweet about it), so you wonder what the point of all the spying will be. It can become perfunctory, with one trip or incident after another, unless there is some clear peril or menace building that they know about but that their friends suspect. Presumably, it’s all about cybersecurity, meeting those kinds of threats that could take down the electricity grid for six months (I’m guessing, but not kidding). Maybe the series will throw in something about EMP later. It could get into the subject of “cyber fingerprinting”, an intelligence heuristic that looks for patterns in anonymous attacks to identify culprits (Webroot has been writing about this on Twitter).

I have to wonder about the train wreck – could it allude to the Metro wreck in Washington DC in June of 2009, where research has shown that Metro was negligent in addressing defects in automated braking and train detection systems. But that hardly calls for a place in the Spy Museum. (Maybe it’s more like the tragedy in California where a train engineer was on his cell phone texting.) But all of this series gets the “made in NY” stamp.

The programs re-air Aug. 2. AMC has ordered 12 episodes.

Still, this series lacks the clear premise of a series like “Flash Forward” that got canceled.

Here is AMC’s own description. The tagline is "Not every conspiracy is a theory."

AMC on cable stands for American Movie Channel, apparently no connection to AMC Theaters. This seems to be all right with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Quote from a subsequent episode: "The best part of the job: you can't take your work home with you."