Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rumors about Will on "Days of our Lives"; will Nick, Shawn and Belle return? AC on family dinners

Yesterday, on the last episode of “Days of our Lives”, Sami’s likeable late teen son Will Horton (now Chandler Massey) says to his mother Sami something like, “just when I think it is impossible for you to become any more selfish than you already are, you surprise me.”  Yes, Sami has become a trademark for “selfishness”, and not the Ayn Rand kind.  (Will was upset when he caught Sami with EJ after she had married Rafe.)
 There are rumors that Will is going to “come out”, as on this site (website url) link. He certainly is a strong-willed (pub) character.  How could Samantha have even raised him? 

He did work on a gay website.  But soaps have a hard time working in gay characters when their plot threads so obsessed with family lineage and false loyalties and protection rackets.  How would Stefano react to gay offspring, who may not  be willing to augment his biological empire?  At least, Will, as played now, is “cute”.  But remember Nick Fallon?  Since Days has brought back so many other characters (Marlena and John), will Nick (Blake Berris) get out of jail and come back?  Will Shawn and Belle return?

 Anderson Cooper yesterday reiterated the importance of the family dinner, almost bringing it to the level of a Family Home Evening.

And later Thursday AC360 had a guest (CNN), a prosecutor who questioned whether Internet service providers should be protected from downstream liability by law given all the “social problems” we have.

Pix:  In the green plaid shirt -- me, being attacked. 

Update: Jan. 9

Will tries to blackmail EJ for sleeping with his MOM, and EJ claims he knows Will shot him (I think that's true), and demands Will join the Mob to stay out of jail himself.  EJ also says Will's "kind" wouldn't fare well in jail.  Will is so innocent, having no idea he has grown up in a mob family. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

PBS Frontline: "The Undertaking" looks at a funeral home in Michigan

This evening, some PBS stations re-aired the PBS Frontline documentary “The Undertaking”, link here.
The program centered on Thomas Lynch and his funeral home business in Michigan.  It focused on the process of the family, adjusting to the idea that it can never interact with the person alive “on this planet” or in this lifeline again. It did discuss the wide range of arrangements that are possible.  Some families actually witness cremations the way others would see formal burial ceremonies.  
The film was produced by Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor. 
Lynch is the author of the book “The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade”, published by Norton in 2009 (paper).  Lynch also writes poetry. 
I worked with the industry in December 2010, with the passage of my mother at age 97.  I did not want to linger at the individual steps.  We had a simple graveside memorial a week later, and a church memorial a month later with music as well as remembrances (“Drama” blog, Jan. 16, 2011). 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

CNN: AC360 "on the front lines"; David Ignatius tells Zakaria ordinary people can be spies; Whoopi starts sounding libertarian

Christmas Night, Anderson Cooper’s AC360 was a special report “CNN on the Frontlines”, link here
There was a lot of recollection of events overseas with the Arab Spring, with some particular details, such as the camel march in Egypt, when the government was getting desperate.
The panel refuted the idea that most protesters wanted to be anonymous to protect themselves on the Internet; some insisted on using their real names. 
They also said that natural disasters are tougher to take than conflict. There was a lot of re-coverage of the personal losses in Japan. 
Today Fareed Zakaria interviewed journalist David Ignatius (“Body of Lies”) and talked about the “real” world of spies, who often run ordinary businesses now as covers.  He talked about “CIA v. ISI”.  The idea is important to me because in my novel I have a part time ex-military “spy” working as a history teacher and needing long term subs.  

Also, Piers Morgan interviewed Whoopi Goldberg, who did talk about "Sister Act" (drama blog Dec. 1), and who made some rather libertarian comments (almost Cato-like) on reducing the role of government in people's lives. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

PBS Nova: "What Darwin Never Knew"

On Dec. 21, PBS NOVA  re-aired the 2009 documentary “What Darwin Never Knew”, a good companion piece to “Darwin’s Darkest Hour” (Oct. 7, 2009). The link is here.
One of the most interesting segments is the re-examination of what gives human beings their intellectual advantages.  It’s more turning on of certain genes than their presence, and the fact that smaller skeletal muscles allowed more room for brain development, and more energy to go to it.   But in many ways, carnivores, cetaceans and other primates are like human beings. They are self-aware and have egos.  That is one reason we fascinated with them (especially big cats, it seems). 
The film tackles the incredible diversity of life, and how it could have developed in a relatively short time – much of it in only millions or even hundreds of thousands of years.  What would this say aboutthe likely development of life on other worlds?
One question: Why is there such a stunning diversity of life? One answer: evolution.   
Why did consciousness and self-awareness develop?  To give a reproductive advantage? Or did consciousness come first, drive the universe, and does it recreate itself?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ABC settles copyright lawsuit claiming"Wipeout" infringes on Japanese extreme game shows; the show is more "original" than "they" think!

ABC  (and Dutch production company Endemol) has settled a 2008 lawsuit by the Tokyo Broadcasting Company, claiming that its reality show “Wipeout” is a mashup or “rip-off” of some Japanese game ("extreme sports") shows. Including “Takeshi’s Castle”, “Ninja Warrior” and “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge”.  
The show is pretty irreverent, to say the least. The Christmas special was called “Deck the Balls” (John Anderson and John Henson, and Vanessa Lachey) and had wisecracks about “giving”, the “Nutcracker” (with the Tchaikovsky music, paraphrased), a wisecrack about caning in Singapore,  "pain in the ice", and even chest shaving for the sake of replacement body art – all in the first eight minutes.   Young ladies fall in ice water. It doesn’t look like fun.  Prize is $50000. Here’s the (website url) link.  (It you think about the jabs about the "chest work" -- well, that could not have come from a show in an oriental country  -- a point of defense for ABC.)
The Associated Press has a brief story about the settlement here

The idea that this generated copyright litigation is disturbing. I had always thought that derivative work that is sufficient transformative is no longer infringing under US law.  I’m not sure how this plays out in an international setting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Days of our Lives" explores a tricky neuromuscular disease and may surprise viewers

Yesterday (Dec. 20, 2011), the NBC-Corday soap opera “Days of our Lives” presented a conversation between the surgeon Daniel Jonas  (a hunky Shawn Christian) tells his “own doctor” Lexie Carver (Renee Jones) that he is afraid he could have myasthenia gravis.  The episode shows his hand shaking. Lexie says he has the genetic markers but not the actual autoimmune disease. Daniel says he will have to give up surgery because of the mild tremors.  I didn’t realize that such mild symptoms could have such consequences. 
I had thought such tremors were more likely to be associated with Parkinsonism, related to the cells in the brain that manage dopamine.  I have had these very mild tremors for years, and believe that it could be non-progressive or only very slow Parkinson’s.  I had not thought about myasthenia gravis. 
Another disease that these two could become confused with is Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which involves profound weakness of involuntary muscles, because of degeneration of nerve cells that communicate with them.   But this is different from myasthenia gravis, in which autoimmune disease prevents voluntary muscles from receiving messages from nerve cells.  
It’s odd that a soap opera episode could leave a question for a next (Medicare) doctor’s visit.

On Thursday, DOOL started with a line "Do you know how many federal regulations there are governing Internet access?"  Ask Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Maybe DOOL can debate SOPA.  (The point comes up as they try to show than "John" didn't have Internet access the day he supposedly embezzled funds. The show also talks about subpoenas of ISP user logs -- a good point to bring up.  It also gets into foreign governments cutting off access.)

Then, in a separate scene, a character says, "don't spend your life waiting for the perfect woman" before settling down and getting married.  Be realistic and settle for what is reasonable.  Part of the "self-policing social code."  After all, couples are supposed to grow old (and imperfect) together. 

Isn't that part of Vatican doctrine?

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Terra Nova" 2011 fall conclusion offers mountaintop removal by time travel

Tonight, Dec. 19, the series “Terra Nova” on Fox concluded the 2011 season (at least the fall part) with two episodes (two hours total), “Occupation” and “Resistance”.
The “Phoenix Group” from 2149 tries to come back to strip mine an area for a precious ore. The concept of backwards time travel for “mountaintop removal” sounds bizarre indeed, as if the ultimate mockery of the environmentally destructive practice. Maybe the Appalachians can be completely epilated away. An earlier episode had covered the EMP danger. 
In fact, the group would defoliate the entire area with a single blast first. 
The colonists try to defend by limiting the throughput of the Portal. 
Another funny concept is the mockery of the whole idea of colonialism (as we study it in American history and world history) with time travel.  Even mercantilism, a difficult concept for high school students, is explored. 

Of course, things can go the other way. What happens if a velociraptor gets brought back to 2149 accidentally?
When someone dies in Terra Nova, will he/she be reborn in the 22nd Century and recycle the same life incarnations infinitely?
Nevertheless, at the end, the colonists discover evidence in nearby areas that people have come back from other centuries, and the very last shot shows another planet in the sky. Is it “Another Earth” or “Melancholia”?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Chuck" on Fridays: a world wide cyber attack? ("Chuck" is the starting pitcher every week)

NBC’s comical “Chuck” resumed October 28, now on Fridays.  Chuck (Zachary Levi) has his own spy agency – his own IMF, so to speak. But he’s still the same goofball.  In 2011, every episode title starts with “Chuck versus…”

But on Dec. 16, “Chuck versus the Curse”, Chuck is accused of or framed for planting a worldwide Omen virus himself.   Much of the episode has them exploring Castle air ducts.  At the end, outright cyberwar has broken out. All the major corporate servers in the world are infected, and the neon signs on Times Square go awry.   Is the episode a warning of all out cyberwar as it could really happen?  What if every single personal blog and every single personal or small business site were wiped out?  (SOPA?)

It seems as though Devon Woodson, played by Ryan McPartlin, seems like a clone of Cylde Tolson from “J. Edgar”.  I could have been fooled to think the actor was Armie Hammer until I saw him with, well, less.
The show has the same comical musical prologue, and “Buy More” and “Nerd Herd” still come across as transpositions of Best Buy’s Geek Squad, all with black ties and special agents.   Could the Geek Squad defeat a global cyber enemy?

Here’s NBC’s episode link.

We don’t have series this year like “The Event” or “Flash Forward”.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Katie Couric gives mild 2011 retrospect on ABC Primetime

ABC News began its retrospect of the year 2011 with “The Year with Katie Couric”, full episode here 

She started out with a replay of a moment on Piers Morgan, looking dusky now and 70s-ish, where Christine O’Donnell walks out on his show.

The three big courtroom drama personalities filled much of the hour: Conrad Murray, Amanda Knox, and Casey Anthony, who everyone says will live on the run as a pariah, with a difficult life.  

She finished her broadcast with the account of J. R. Martinez and Dancing with the Stars. 

The broadcast seemed a bit insipid compared to what it could have been.

ABC Nightline last night, though, woke us all up with an account of peeping-Tom spy webcams and photos in private spaces in public facilities.  It’s a touchy subject.  There is no “right to privacy” in a public space when out in the open (when not in a specific space normally associated with personal privacy, like a restroom or garment changing room).  There are people who says they don’t think their visages should show up on the Internet without their consent no matter where they are. But that doesn’t seem to be the law; I’ve covered this on my main blog. Yet, it makes anyone who takes public photographs at all wonder if others will think he is creepy.

Kate Couric’s “A Look Back” from CBS here:

In Washington, I usually get my news from ABC, NBC, and CNN.   When I go to New York, the first news channel I find on cable in the hotel (or “Yotel”) is always CBS.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

History Channel's "Proving God"

Last night, the History Channel premiered its documentary “Proving God”, in which it tried to present the science that closes the gap between physics and biology as we know it, and God or a creator or some sort of intelligent design.
The two-hour program focused on two main areas: the Ark of the Covenant itself, said to reside behind maze-likecorridors at an Orthodox church at Axum, Ethiopia, and the proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson with supercollider experiments in Europe. 

There is a man who guards the Ark and never leaves the church. 
We could get into a discussion of who life is a process that reverses entropy (the Second Law of Thermodynamics), but then so is the creation of galaxies, stars and planets from dust, even as their destruction and breakdown (and sometimes explosion) increases entropy.  Perhaps conscious beings actually migrate eventually toward god status in order to oppose entropy and keep the universe (or succession of universes) going. 
Here is the History Channel’s own site

Wikipedia attribution link  for picture of Axum church.

I remember that in 10th grade English, a girl tried to prove that God exists in an assigned theme.

Monday, December 12, 2011

NatGeo offers "Big Cat Week" on "Wild" Cable Channel

On Sunday December 11, the National Geographic Channel, on a separate National Geographic Wild Channel, launched “Big Cat Week”. The link is here.

The habitat of African cats is seriously threatened, and the lion population is fraction of what it was. Despite their reputation, almost any large cat can learn to accept man, as he is not natural food and not a competitor in their sense.  APL has aired a case where a Toronto zoologist learned lion body language and got the alpha male to allow him to join a pride and film it.  Cats seem a lot like us. 

The listing said that the series started at 8 PM, but at 7 PM there was an episode called “Leopard Queen”.  A British wildlife fillmaker followed the life of a female leopard Manana for 17 years, after she was rescued when her mother died.  Zoologists intervened once with a tranquilizer to fix a life-threatening problem.
I see that I reviewed a similar NatGeo film “Eye of the Leopard” (about Legedema) here July 7, 2008. 

During her life, Manana allowed two competing males to mate with her so that neither would kill her cubs.  Then a python swallowed her only cub. She chase it, forcing it to vomit the carcass before fleeing. In a ritual of mourning, she ate the carcass. 

Later, after the CNN Heroes program, I watched Lions v. Cheetahs.  The filmmakers examined why a lion made an apparently unprovoked attack on cheetahs when mating.  Finally, the filmmakers speculated that on rare occasions cheetahs have killed lion cubs. 

Lions, leopards and hyenas are mortal enemies because they compete for the same game, and often kill offspring.   But male lions (and leopards) will kill the cubs of other males so that their own genes get passed. 
This certainly sounds like a commentary on the need for civilization.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CNN Heroes 2011: Internet service sets up international mentors; local columnist gets direct aid; birthing/midwifery project wins the top award

Robin Lin won the top award on “CNN Heroes: Everyday People Changing the World” tonight, in Los Angeles, in an event hosted by Anderson Cooper.   The link is here.

Lin’s work involved midwifery and helping women give birth safely in poorer areas. The organization is called Yayasan Bumi Sehta (“Healthy Mother Earth Foundation”).

There were a total of ten heroes honored.  Compared to NBC’s American Givers, they tended to have much more international reach. 

Amy Stokes has a program promoting international online mentorship.  It’s called “The Infinite Family”, link here
Sal Dimicelli has a newspaper column which helps procure necessities for hundreds of people a year, here.    He runs a kind of “Dear Abby” column in a small newspaper in Wisconsin, which he publishes (online?) but somehow investigates and starts the help-out effort himself.  It’s a good question how this could be duplicated in every community.

Derreck Kayongo noticed that soap was being thrown away by hotels and could be used in Africa to stop disease. 

Anderson was in a light-hearted mood as he introduced the program. He promised not to giggle, or behave like a 13 year old girl who had just met Justin Bieber.  I can think of more convincing Clark-Kent-like icons, on this show or not. 

The social pressure put on the public by shows like “CNN Heroes” and NBC’s “American Giving” raises another issue, which I’ll explore soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

NBC's "American Giving Awards"

Tonight NBC presented its American Giving Awards, sponsored by Chase (link), where it presents five charities. 

The inning charity was “To Write Love on her Arms”, link here

The evening had opened with “Wish Upon a Hero”, a “social network” which allows a 1:1 match between need and helper, link.  

A charity related helping people get into college was “Let’s Get Ready", link.

A charity related to food was “Move for Hunger” (link).    A organization in Washington DC that performs a similar function is Food and Friends. 

But the emotional climax of the evening probably came with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, here.  

Some of the charities involved more of a very personal, time-involved approach from participants.  Some of the stories, as in the “Wish upon a Hero”, seem to stem as much from relationship and marriage failures as simply money or employment problems.   During the broadcast, in one video, a speaker said, “someday you will have children, too” – except that some of us won’t.  Some of us would have a hard time warming up to the relational or other situations of some of the people, because we never experience anything close to it.  Again, I see examples of this all the time: the people who have the most children can't afford to, and the people who can, don't want to. That’s a clue to what is so challenging about some of the charities. 

The evening calls to mind Oprah Winfrey's "The Big Give" a few years ago, and it seemed a little more focused.

The show also anticipates "CNN Heroes" Sunday night.

On the GOP Debate in Iowa (9-11 on ABC), each candidate was asked how he/she had faced hardship.  Michele Bachmann said her mother got divorced when she was a girl, and that she had to help support/tale care of her sisters. Did that contribute to her large family today?  Mitt Romney admitted he hadn't grown up poor, but Rick Perry had grown up without running water.  Ron Paul's wife helped get him through medical school. Newt, I can't remember -- Oh, he grew up over a storefront in Pennsylvania.  Gingrich made a strange pronouncement, a word of warning: that if we didn't get it right about Iran, our country wouldn't survive.

Friday, December 09, 2011

AC360 report hits distracted driving hard

AC360 tonight did a brief report on distracted driving that was compelling.  Besides providing statistics on how many people talk on cell phones and drive, a reporter did an experiment showing the stopping distance when a driver loads a CD (1-1/2 seconds) and answers a cell phone call, not hands free (3 seconds).  More states are banning cell phone use while driving altogether, some allow hands-free devices, which don’t reduce the distraction that much.  Virginia bans it only near work zones (and bans texting while driving). 

Will states try to ban other kinds of activities – like eating?  Drinking coffee is probably good – helps keep you awake. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

"Revenge" is willing to exploit the "gay angle"

I poked for an hour at “Revenge” last night (titled "Loyalty"), and noted the secret self-taping of Tyler’s unveiling of Nolan in a hookup.  It seems that Amanda (Emily Van Camp) will use people anyway she can to reach her “goal”.  If exploiting a gay relationship in her environment suits her purposes, so be it. 

Nolan (Gabriel Mann) seems quick enough as the geeky-looking and fast talking hacker (he should be working for Julian Assange  -- out of idealism, maybe, as he's supposed to be as rich as "Zuck" from his "inventions"), and Tyler (Ashton Holmes) is conniving enough to get what he wants, including blackmailing his boss not to fire him. 

I found a posting about Tyler and Nolan on Yahoo!, here.

The character who is absolutely eyepopping is Declan (Connor Paolo), totally straight. A high school dropout, he says he really wants to go to college. 

This is one of those shows (or movies) where all the characters are despicable, but their prettiness titillates the eye anyway.  No, it doesn’t make a good case for LGBT people along the way, but not for the world of heterosexual marriage either.  

Here’s an interview with Garbriel Mann early in the season. Garbriel says his character has too much money.

An executive producer Mike Kelley, is not the same as Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, etc), but I was fooled for a while. The show is certainly bizarre enough.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

ABC "Castle" episode simulates a dream you can't get out of ("Inception"?)

The ABC show “Castle” – which, as noted before, explores the practical consequences of an author’s fictitious events (crimes) being imitated (that has happened in the soap “One Life to Live”, too) had an interesting problem is last night’s episode, “Cuffed”. 

Castle and Beckett wake up handcuffed together, in bed, in a episode that takes 15 minutes to get past load point. But the premise is sort of like that of “Inception”:  neither character knows how he or she got there, or who is to be feared (maybe a tiger that appears).  This is sort of like a dream you can’t wake yourself from – and medically, that can be dangerous.  Lives end that way, whether because of amnesia drugs or not.   In a dream, your experience seems very real – it may be what you want, or don’t want to let go of.  Or you may start running, and find your legs don’t work very well.  You walk as if your clutch was slipping. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Larry King invites us to his dinner party on CNN, expresses his own lack of Faith in a bizarre conversation with other celebrities

Larry King did a promised special program this evening in the CNN Presents series, “A Special Dinner with the Kings”, featuring Conan O’Brien (“I wonder why we’re being served by the CIA”), Tyra Banks, Shaquille O’Neal, Seth McFarlane, Jack Dorsey (one of the founders of Twitter), Quincy Jones, and Russell Brand. 

The food looked delicious. I’d post the pictures of the steak if it weren’t copyright infringement to do so. They feasted while talking about the gap between the rich and the poor.  Is it rude for celebrities to show themselves eating convention-style catered dinners?  But King’s wife says, “We’re having a party, and you’re invited.”  Well, to share in the feast (not just a Rosicrucian Feast) you have to have followed the script of my own "Make the A-List" (2002).

There was a general agreement that our culture presents a misleading notion of “entitlement” which discourages some people from working as hard as they should or trying their own ideas. 

Larry King made the odd comment that he feared death, because he doesn’t have a faith that promises him the hereafter, whereas his wife does.  He used to talk about his left-side coronary bypass surgery that took place back in 1987 as I recall. 

I (age 68) had a dream last night that relates to King’s comment.  I was in some sort of complex of condos and shopping malls, and looking for film I had shot.  Finally I found it in a Home Depot at the end of the lot. But as I carried it back, reality seemed to disintegrate. The film would be there, and then disappear. Existence seemed to be at risk of failing.  I guy I recall from the bars in Dallas (the Roundup) would say he was a police candidate, and then “do what you like. But you won’t be allowed to better yourself again. We score your life right now.”  As I woke up, I felt pretty normal – no rapid heartbeat common after REM sleep and deep dreams – and went downstairs to make sure everything works.  The electronics were normal.  But outside there was a bizarre fog just at the top of the hill on which I lived.  It disappeared as you drove or walked 40 feet lower to the street below.   Was the world still OK?  Was I still alive?  By the time I came home from church, the weird fog was gone, burned off.  Existence was back to normal.  I wasn’t in a parallel universe with no weak force.