Monday, October 31, 2011

"CNN Presents" covers plastic bag wars and libel suit; unconvicted abusive priests; shark tournaments; and "The Mountaintop"

Sunday, October 30, 2011, "CNN Presents" covered several important topics. 

The most prescient was “Plastic Wars”, where Amber Lyons covers plastic waste winding up everywhere, including man closed loops way out in the Pacific Ocean.  The plastic gets ground into little bits of material.  (See review of film “Bag It” on Movies blog, March 28, 2010.)   

The litigation against Andy Keller, owner of Chico Bag (link) has been sued for defamation by larger competitor Hilex Poly  (link, saying it operates the largest plastic bag recycling facility in the world), and two other competitors.  As part of a proposed settlement, Keller was supposed to agree not to talk about Hilex – or else Chico could be forced out of business.  “Silence clauses” in intellectual property settlements could set dangerous precedents, even for newbies, in the law – a problem I would expect to see Electronic Frontier Foundation to address.  Felicity Barringer reports on the matter for the New York Times, June 11, 2011, “In war of words, makers of plastic bags go to court”), link here.

CNN’s show also reported on shark fishing tournaments, where larger sharks are killed, possibly contributing the depletion of the population.

It also covered the issue of accused priests (regarding improper conduct with minors) living in communities without being on a registry, but they haven’t been convicted of crimes or even sometimes accused of crimes. 

The government would be getting involved in the affairs of a church if it compelled reporting of all incidents to police.  It’s dangerous to suggest people should be on a “Scarlet Letter” list without conviction of a crime.  (In Ohio, that’s actually possible.)

The report also contained a brief report on the new play about the Rev. Martin Luther King, “The Mountaintop”, on Broadway (the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater), by Katori Hall, story

The “CNN Presents” link for the show is here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

ABC 20-20: "Lessons from Billionaires"

ABC 20-20 presented a special “Lessons from Billionaires” as a response to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, link here  

The moral lesson: create a product or service people really want.

The report started with the story of the creation of the Cirque de Soleil, by Guy Laliberth.  He gives a lot to projects to provide water in Africa.  He has remained a bachelor.  “Part of the risk-taking personality is the ability to overcome failure.”

Next she presented Lynn Titlton, who restructures failing companies.  At age 52, she owns 75 companies.  “If you want to sell it in America, you must make it in America.”  “Don’t do it for the money … follow your passion.”  Also, “we must put people back to work or we will have violence in the streets”.

Next Jean Paul De Joria told his story, of his rise from homelessness and abandonment by parents. He became a super salesman, saying you have to have as much enthusiasm on the 51st door as on the first, after many rejections.  De Joria eventually built a shampoo and cosmetic business.  But he believes you have become involved with people directly to help them find work.

Finally Barbara Walters presented Tony Hsieh of Zappos Shoes (selling shoes online). He makes his employees “happy” with lunches and full medical benefits (the management style resembles Google and Facebook as workplaces).   He has written a book called “Delivering Happiness”. Barbara asked him “Could you lose everything and be happy?”

Everyone "gives back". 

Friday, October 28, 2011

World Series 2011 Game 6, on Fox: Greatest Game ever? St. Louis wins on Freese's "Ryan-Zimmerman"-like walkoff

Last night, did Fox broadcast the greatest game of Major League baseball every played? (Some say, no, that was the 5-4 win in Boston by the Yankees to capture the 1978 pennant.)

The Texas Rangers twice had two run leads with two strikes and two outs, and let it get away. The 10-9 11-inning win by the St. Louis Cardinals certainly provided the lesson in home-field advantage in baseball, with the possibility of a walk-off win.

The Cardinals, however, with National League rules, were down to using pitchers as pinch hitters.  (For the Nationals, where Strasburg, Milone and Livan Heranandez, and even Lannan can all hit, that’s not such an issue.)

The new Busch Stadium in St. Louis is still an “average park”, just about symmetrical. The final home off the bat of Freese landed in the grass beyond the dead centerfield fence. Was it a Morse homer or a Zimmerman homer?

A couple of the Rangers look unseemly, with forearm tattoos (Hamilton and Napoli) that seem disfiguring.
The Rangers started out as the “new Senators” in 1961, when I was a senior in High School in the DC area. I remember the “new Senators’” first win at home, against Cleveland, in a re-expanded Griffith Stadium, 3-2. 

Their first season, the “new Senators” would finish 61-100, after splitting the first 60 games. Their slide would start with a lost weekend in Boston, right after I graduated from Washingon-Lee high school. They would lose a game in Boston after leading 12-5 with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth.  Home field advantage, again.  Bog down the Fenways. 

Then one September night in 1971, BobShort would announce he was taking the Senators to the “Metroplex”, Dallas-Ft. Worth.  (I almost went to the "forfeited" final game at RFK with the Yankees, when I was doing heterosexual dating.) I would live there from 1979-1988 and they would be “mine” again.

I would live in Minneapolis 1997-2003 when the original “old” Senators would be “mine”.  Washington has provided eventually good teams for other cities.

The MLB emdeb for the homer is here.

MLB offers "the 20 greatest games" on demand on its own cable channel. Game 11 is the famous 1978 win in the one-game 1978 elimination of the Red Sox by the Yankees, with Bucky Dent and Lou Pinella annotating. Just before hitting the 3-run homer over the Green Monster in the 7th, Dent had fouled a pitch off his shin. It's amazing that one could numb an area from pain through thick stockings and pants.  Torres has to wait two minutes for him to come back to the plate. This evening, the "Beer Haus" in the Westover Market in Arlington VA was showing this clip (see drama blog, Oct. 31, 2009). 


St. Louis won the seventh game, 6-2.  Sounds like a replay of Boston's loss of the World Series in 1986.  If you visit a sports bar when it isn't busy, ask if they have the license to replay Baseball's 20 greatest games.  It still probably makes money for MLB. Watch out -- MLB is very jealous of its copyrights!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Piers Morgan re-interviews filmmaker Michael Moore in view of protests; why won't employers hire?

Piers Morgan on CNN last night did a new interview of filmmaker Michael Moore, who said that the “Occupy Wall Street” protests would spread across the country. (They already have.)

Moore said that large corporations were hoarding cash rather than hiring workers because they know there will be another 2008-style crash, this one even worse.

He said that gradually over the years, owners of capital have become more personally selfish, and tended to treat employees as a burden to be shed.  Morgan asked him about the effect of technology as well as moving jobs overseas, and Moore thought that technological change and labor saving itself was a good thing.

Morgan challenged Moore on whether Moore practices what he preaches. After all, Moore does well himself.  Moore said that when capitalism works correctly, the wealth is shared with everyone. Moore admitted he did quite well because he makes film distributors a lot of money, but the companies don’t like what his movies say.

Although one can cast the issues in terms of “corporations” v. “the people”, the real question about policy changes is what sacrifices are made by individual people.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PBS Frontline weighs in on Willingham case in Texas, questioning Gov. Perry's conduct; what about justice based on "reputation"?

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, many PBS stations aired the Frontline special “Death by Fire” about the Todd Willingham case in Corsicana, TX.  I reviewed a film on the case (“Incendiary: The Willingham Case”) on my movie’s blog Oct. 4. ABC 20-20 had reported on the case May 4, 2010.

The main PBS link, which has a link to the whole film, is here

The PBS version says that the fire investigators ruled out arson by looking at the wiring in the house. 

Witnesses say that Willingham was in bars partying shortly after the incident, when others were trying to raise funds for his kids’ funeral.

One woman said that Todd did not get the benefit of the doubt because he didn’t show “normal respect” for his family.

Halfway through the hour film, PBS turns to the evidence.  A Gerald Hurst explains the newer science of fires and shows that the pattern in the house was that of a flashpoint, and probably not the result of a crime. In fact, he believed that the wiring was faulty. 

The journalist who was going to write about Willingham was badly injured in an auto accident and not able to continue.

Governor Rick Perry removed three members of a board that could have continued investigating the case.  The case keeps alive the debate on capital punishment, particularly since Texas uses it more than any other state. It could be an issue for Perry’s candidacy for the GOP nomination.

Once again, it appears that Willingham was executed because of faulty evidence that others believed because of his generally poor reputation in the community for character. Legally, he is entitled to a verdict based on the facts; if the fire was an accident (and it looks like it may well have been), he should not have faced prison let alone capital punishment. As a practical matter, he was punished for his bad reputation. This sounds like justice by ostracism in practice, something my mother always warned me about. 

Wikipedia attribution link to picture of Navarro Mills Lake, Texas, near Corsicana, which I visited in 1979 and other times when I lived in Dallas. The city is SE of Dallas, in what is called “East Texas”, a relatively low and flat area with lots of pine trees, like much of the deep South.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

ABC's "Once Upon a Time" tries to sum up all fairy tales (no pun intended)

One time when I was subbing, the tenth graders had an assignment to finish their authored fairy tales. I looked at one of them, “once upon a time, there lived a banana.”

I recall that in our fourth grade reader (a green hard-bound called “More Streets and Roads”), there was a long story near the end, “Rumplestilskin.”  It had only a few pictures.  The reading assignments were getting longer and demanding more concentration!

Maybe the rewards of “too much education” (in Army-speak) show up in ABC’s new series “Once Upon a Time”, written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, creators of NBC’s “Lost”. The creators seem to be trying to roll up all the traditions of fantasy and fairy-tale storytelling into one series.  It’s going to take a lot of commitment from viewers.

The concept does provide a perfect example for “layered storytelling”, so English and film (screenwriting) professors will probably take note.  In high school, substitute teachers will probably find themselves showing it in a couple years.  It looks like it will stay well within the PG-13 world.

The foil is Emma (Jennifer Morrison), a process server and bail recoupment agent, who is about to celebrate her 28th birthday in Boston. (Where else?)  A lot happens.  Among other things, she gets a visit from a ten year old boy Henry (Jared Gilmore) whom she had given up for a closed adoption. But her own parentage is mysterious. It seems as if her folks had been dropped into a raw coastal town of Storybrooke, Maine (a la Stephen King), but had taken over raising Jared.

The kid has a storybood – like a grade school reader with pictures – which transforms into a parallel world story of where Emma’s parents came from.  It’s a real fantasy place of high castles, fjords and pointed mountain peaks, and a wicked godfather to puts a curse on the couple that turns out to be Emma’s parents. But it’s less compelling than, say, the world of Tolkien. The haboob that overruns it and drives them to Maine is rather interesting to look at.

Ginnfer Goodwin and Josh Dallas play Snow White and the Prince, aka the abducted and transplanted couple who must fall to earth – in Maine.  Dallas is quite cute, with nary a widow’s peak
ABC’s site is here.

I guess the opening fantasy “broken wedding” doesn’t help those who argue for preserving “traditional marriage.”

Update: Jan 6, 2012

ABC GMA discussed the show. The characters in Storybrooke, ME (where time had been frozen) have no memory of their previous existences in the fairy tale world (because of the curse), so the concept now sounds more like an experiment with New Age ideas, even reincarnation.  You could get the memory back.  Storybrooke is kind of the joint between the real and fairy tale worlds.

Actually, the memory loss (of the fairy tale world) sounds almost like "reverse reincarnation".  It's more natural to imagine a story where someone lives in heaven or a fairy tale world and slowly remembers life on Earth. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PBS Nova: "Finding Life Beyond Earth" gives a state-of-the-art exploration of the Solar System

If you want a grand tour of every feasible scenario for the development of life on other bodies in our Solar System, watch PBS Nova’s two –part “Finding Life Beyond Earth”.

The first hour gave a sneak –preview of what methane lakes could look like on Titan, before giving the history of planets – how our solar system’s are what remains after many collisions.  The later part fot he hour studies underground water on Mars, suggesting that liquid could temporarily exist underground.

The program showed an animation of the surface of a comet, with its jets than have been shown to contain some building blocks for amino acids.

The second hour looked at Io, Europa, Encedalus (with the spectacular snow geysers hundreds of kilometers tall), and again Titan.  The key concept is that the big planets Jupiter and Saturn produce enormous internal friction on their satellites. The information on Saturn's moons came largely from the Cassini voyage in early 2005. 

Squires said that it would be enormously difficult to drill through miles of ice on Europa to explore an ocean below many miles deep.  The presence of life near volcanic jets in ocean bottoms in arctic regions made the case for “extremophiles” that could live in similar circumstances on Europa.

A scientist creates an experiment with liquid methane and mixing thiolins known to exist on Titan to see if they can create organic molecules when exposed to lightning.  Would hydrocarbon rain generate thunderstorms the way water can (without the same bonding angle that water has)?

Science Daily (June 2010) has an interesting analysis of the chemistry of Titan's atmosphere (the lack of acetylene) and a realistic artist's picture here.

This film had the most vivid impressions of the surfaces of other moons yet. The film ended with some speculations about earth-like planets in other solar systems. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of jets on Encedalus.

In my own sci-fi screenplay script "69 Minutes to Titan", I hypothesize that angels have set up Titan as a basis for travel to other solar systems for humans who survive the coming "Purification".  

Basic link for the show.

PBS Frontline "Lost in Detention" examines ICE, Secure Communities Program with illegal immigration; issue comes up in GOP debate firestorm

PBS Frontline on Tuesday night aired “Lost in Detention”, a one hour documentary about the continued tough policies illegal immigration practiced by the Obama administration, continuing the policies of Bush. The Obama administration says it is simply enforcing the law.

At issue is the Secure Communities Program.  People who look like possible immigrants get stopped for minor traffic violations and detained when they don’t have proper documentation. They are processed by ICE, the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.  Often, they do not have the right to due process or legal representation if they do not have documentation.

Many have been sent to detention centers, including one “tent city” on the Texas-Mexico border near Brownsville. Females have been subject to abuse.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been critical of ICE for seizing Internet domains on the pretext of being dedicated to selling counterfeit goods or services, and has opposed legislation like COICA or ProtectIP.

On Tuesday night, at the GOP candidate debates in Las Vegas, Texas Governor Rick Perry accused Mitt Romney of having hired illegal aliens, in front of Anderson Cooper. In fact, the aliens were employees of a landscaping company hired by Romney; he fired the company when he found out. 

Here is the PBS Frontline link

Here is the WETA link

Picture: Big Bend area of SW Texas, personal hike and Sierra Club trip, Nov. 1979. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

PBS (New Jersey) presents "Decoding Autism"

On Tuesday, October 18, WHUT (Howard University Television, Washington DC), aired “Decoding Autism”, from New Jersey PBS, with the major link here

The staggering increase in the rate of diagnosis of one of autism spectrum disorders may occur because we look for it now. The rate for New Jersey is higher than for the nation. There is a concern that this is related to pollution in New Jersey.  Boys are four times as likely as girls to develop an autism spectrum disorderically as clinically defined.

Asperger’s syndrome is considered to be part of the autism spectrum, even if many “patients” have superior intellect (if focused), and don’t consider it a problem.  One boy says it is a good thing because it helps him draw.

The program examines the role of genetics, which is considerable. But identical twins are not always concordant (about 60% of the time).  Environment and utero influences could trigger genetic tendencies.
The brains of some autism patients may have “too many connections” and may not get “pruned” properly (although, then, why does autism usually show up so early in life)?   Or perhaps a particularly narrowly focused talent (music) could lead to other skills (athletics) being crowded out, but this is hardly a consistent observation.

The show reports the discrediting of connection of autism to vaccines, which “don’t cause autism”.  So when parents refuse to allow vaccination, they hurt the effort toward “herd immunity”.  But by coincidence, vaccines are given at the same time when symptoms of autism appear.

I remember meeting filmmaker Gode Davis in a Friday's restaurant in Providence, RI, New Years Day, 2003, on a visit, and his first remarks was that I have Asperger's. He said he could tell by the lack of usual body language.  

The program covered the founding of “Autism speaks”, like here.

Picture: from an Amtrak train crossing into Trenton, NJ, 2010. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

ABC 20-20 "Children of the Plains" examines the Sioux in SD

On Friday night, ABC 20-20 presented, as part of its “Hidden America”, an episode called “Children of the Plains”, about the Lakota Sioux at Pine Ridge, SD, near the Badlands, SE of Rapid City and the Black Hills.

Diane Sawyer interviewed many of the kids, whose ambitions ranged from becoming president to becoming grandmothers. Diane was quite homey with the children, rather like an elementary school teacher.

I met Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux, who was born on Pine Ridge, through the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, around 2001. Means is a well  known actor (“The Last of the Mohicans”, based on James Fenimore Cooper’s book, with Daniel Day-Lewis; not my favorite film of his) and author of the controversial (and long) “Where White Men Fear to Tread”, which I bought at an LPMN convention.  In fact, in the late 1990s, the LPMN held its conventions at Mystic Lake Casino SW of Minneapolis, owned by another tribe. (One of the most spectacular tribal casinos in the nation is near Groton, CT.)

In 2007, HBO aired (and I later rented) the lengthy film by Yves Simoneau, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, which was a bit docudrama-like (with Aidan Quinn and Colm Feore).

Extremely successful teen actor Taylor Lautner (possibly the nation’s wealthiest teen), born and raised in Michigan, has some native American ancestry through his mother’s side. So personal success of native people today is often very individualized, as with all minorities – a very libertarian theme (which Herman Cain has recently “exploited”).  Native American communities around casinos (at least near Minneapolis) seemed to do very well financially.

Yet, I have to say that, even when I lived in Minneapolis, I noticed that many native American tribal lands, such as those around Red Lake, seemed poor.  In March 2001, right after a 30-inch snowfall, I visited the Sioux lands between Watertown and Sisselton, in eastern SD, personal picture above (it didn't turn out well).   (I never saw so much snow anywhere as in Watertown that trip.)

Sawyer did discuss the general thrust of Native American history, including mention of a Supreme Court pronouncement that treatment had been shameful.  This seems to refer to Carcieri v. Salazar (2009) regarding the Department of Interior’s  right to take lands into trust, as in this story by Joshua Cronkite in a Bellingham WA paper, here, where a libertarian position says that the native Americans are lured into further dependency.  Here’s the Cornell Law School link for the opinion. 

Sawyer also discussed the problem of obesity and type II diabetes  as a result of the very recent introduction of the peoples to western diet, after millennia of living off the land with the “thrifty genes”.  

Sawyer mentioned a Sioux proverb, “The center of the Universe is everywhere”.

Wikipedia attribution link for Badlands picture on the reservation. I visited the area in April 1974 and again in May 1998. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nate Berkus appears on "Days of our Lives", but the worn soap keeps getting weaker

Today, Nate Berkus, well established with his own home design show (a male counterpart to a previous show of Martha Stewart) made a cameo on NBC’s tired soap “Days of our Lives”, getting reading to design Katrina’s (or someone’s) house in the imaginary Ohio of the soap.  I guess make-believe counts, too.

Or, perhaps turn it around, and have a two-hour combined show some day, in fictitious space.

I’ve noticed that ABC’s “All My Children” is gone. I find it hard to believe that “Days” has survived so long, as the story gets so lame.  Sami can't hold it together forever. 

Yet, seven years ago, with the characters mysteriously kidnapped into a situation that sounded like a preview of “Lost”, the soap was genuinely intriguing.    But then the plot started getting erratic, as actors were dropped. (Shawn and Belle were written out of the plot in one day.) What happened to it?

There is something in common with three of the most popular hosted network shows today: Nate, Ellen, and Anderson.  Do your inductive reasoning.

Any predictions on how much longer “Days”  (started in 1965) will last? 

Update: Oct. 13

Well, Nate was back again today, and further more some characters whom I thought were dead are coming back. There's Jennifer and Jack (who got caught on the island), and then there is a suit against John Black, whom I thought was "gone", for a ponzi scheme like Bernie Madoff's.

Then Deidre Hall (site), the glamorous actress who used to play the psychiatrist and "Salem stalker" Marlena, appeared on Nate on his own show (one hour later in DC). She showed Nate her kitchen; I was surprised that in California homeowners use gas stoves. Apparently, from what she told Nate while cooking, she's getting resurrected and returning to Days, too. So maybe DOOL is going all out to survive, maybe in an alternate universe.

Nate, on his own show today, also showed the set (in California) for Days, particularly the pub in "Salem".  Nate says this is his first acting job since high school.  He didn't need to memorize many lines. The character Brady advertised his hairless torso in front of Nate.

There is a Salem, Ohio, but it is a small town (not so far from Akron). Sometimes the show refers to Highway 13, which goes up through the middle of the state. Mt. Vernon, Ohio (where some relatives live) has apparently attracted some moviemaking.

On Ellen today, there was a cat demonstrating skill at card-counting.  Maybe that's Ellen's own cat.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

AC360: Special town hall: "Bullying: It Stops Here", with major clips from a new film by Lee Hirsch

On Sunday night, Oct. 9, Anderson Cooper aired his one-hour town hall on AC360, “Bullying: It Stops Here”, with primary link here. The show was broadcast from Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ, site of the Tyler Clementi incident (which involved college freshmen in a dorm, not public school). 

As guests, Anderson hosted Dr. Phil McGraw, Rosalind Wiseman, Sean Fenny, a NJ principal, Sunny Hostin, Kelly Ripa, and Dr. Faris, a researcher at the University of California at Davis.

Bullying was characterized as “social combat”, like what happens in communities of social animals (like lions).   There is a special focus on anti-gay harassment (and anti trans-gender), but many other forms happen.

The most touching part of the show was the three clips shown from the new film directed by Lee Hirsch, “The Bully Project: A Day in the Life of America’s Bullying Crisis”.  In one clip, a boy tells his counselor that he doesn’t feel anything now.  The extended trailer is (website url) here.  It is due for theatrical release from The Weinstein Company in March 2012.   The official site for the film is here

The AC360 special presented the severity of the problem in Anoka, MN, north of Minneapolis, shocking in an area of the country normally known for progressiveness.  But the school systems “neutrality policy” on teaching gay issues (not mentioning in class) is said to contribute to the crisis. 

My biggest problems teasing occurred between third and ninth grades. It completely stopped in Senior High School, in tenth grade, in 1958. Even then, Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA was very progressive in not tolerating it.

My problems were not as obviously severe as those in the film or tonight’s show, but were nevertheless quite troubling. On rare occasions, I bullied back, especially with one troubling incident at the end of ninth grade, and incident (in June 1958, age 14) which I still have trouble explaining today.  What was I thinking?  It seems almost like compulsive behavior.

As a substitute teacher, I encountered severe bullying problems in a middle school special education class, which I had not signed up for but was assigned anyway.  One “white” boy in the class was physically attacked by others.  I could only call school Security, which the administration did not like. I could not control this, inasmuch it involved racial, cultural, and severe family dis-function  (lack of parenting) that the kids apparently came from.  There’s more on my “BillBoushka” blog, July 25, 2007. In subbing in high school, I encountered bullying only once, but a serious incident occurred in a class populated mostly by low-income students not performing at grade level.  Again, I could not control it.

My impression was that teasing and "bullying" (milder in my case) was more directed at people who couldn't "compete" socially in a "conventional" way by gender, but who were talented enough in some particular way (like music, intellect, chess, etc) to be perceived as a "threat" to "outflank" more socially competitive (but less individually talented) people.  It's like, changing the distances to the outfield fences.  For the "different" person, the worst scenario is being deprived of the opportunity to use his own personal talents, and being forced to submit to others' social structures and goals instead --  one can be led to believe that he or she has no place  that doesn't require humiliation.

MTV has a related film, "DisCONNECTED", followed by discussion of similar issues, in the cyber and online context.  See Movies Blog, Oct. 10.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

ABC 20-20, Nightline do investigative report on middle school bullying-related shooting and trial in California

Friday night, ABC 20-20 covered the story of Larry King, 15, who was shot point blank by Brandon McInerney, 14, in a case that led to a trial north of Los Angeles that first seems to put “on trial” the inability or unwillingness of many school systems to deal with anti-gay bullying.

The jury was hung on whether Brandon should be convicted of first degree murder or instead voluntary manslaughter. There will be a new trial.

The report showed that Brandon himself came from a very troubled home and might have thought that Larry was “hitting” on him.  The Defense claimed that Larry “bullied” Brandon right back.

Brandon was found to have neo-Nazi like literature in his possession, but later it was found he had been working on a class assignment on the history of Nazi Germany.

The English teacher is interviewed, and she said it was a fine line to see what dress and behavior to allow. But she says Larry King never crossed the line in “breaking the rules”.

Jurors were interviewed, and they all insisted that no jury would convict Brandon of first degree murder, whatever the prosecution thinks.

The news story is by Jim Dunreuil and Denise Martinex-Ramando.  An extensive preview of the 20-20 report had aired Thursday night on ABC Nightline.

20-20 Reporter Juju Chang offers a personal perspective on ABC News. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

BBC's "Nietzsche: All too Human"

After reviewing the Martin Millette’s “Stormy Whether” (today on my Books blog  --note the homonym with "Weather"), I did look up Nietzsche on YouTube and found several substantial biographies, including one from the BBC, dating back to 2007 (and apparently 1999) from the BBC, “Nietzsche: Human, All to Human”, also called “Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil” on YouTube, where it is posted by the blogger  “Atheists Opposing Religion) here , with Youtube url.  Embed code is offered but I don’t know about the legal ownership of the film.   But as a practical matter, I recommend watching it.  I was a little surprised not find it on Netflix.

The fifty minute film connects Nietzsche’s philosophy to his own life, as someone who was physically not “competitive”.  The film puts his philosophy in a positive light, of wanting personal freedom to be one’s own self and express it, rather than find comfort in faith or even in others, upon whom one could come to feel shamefully dependent.

Beyond Good and Evil” (“Jenseits von Gut und Bose”) follows “Also sprach Zarathustra”’ it introduces the “will to power” concept, which has been misconstrued to have a political application. The latter part of the film examines the perception that the Nazis used his philosophy.

When I lived in Minneapolis, I knew a graduate student who was reading “The Gay Science” (“Die frohliche Wissenschaft”).

The film is directed by Simon Chu and narrated by Haydn Gwinn.  The music score uses both the famous Zarathustra tone poem of Richard Strauss, and Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht”.   The film explains Nietzche’s falling out with Wagner.

It’s curious that the NIH summary notes about my 1962 “hospitalization” , say “He was given to philosophical ruminations and following the age 16, obsessive thinking about the Nietzschean  superman whom he both idolized and hated”.

While “religious collectivism” or fellowship might be accused of fostering an exclusive environment for the future of tribe, it could also be viewed as a way of giving those with less “independence” a place in the world. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

South Park premiers new season with spoof on public perception of Asperger's

Today, Comedy Central initiated a season premier (at 10 PM) of "South Park" with a spoof of the public’s perception of Asperger’s Syndrome.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone, I guess, “have no shame”.  The title of the episode is not reprintable, but Cartman finds a creative way to deal with his diagnosis.  The early passages of the show make fun of the idea that you can “catch” Asperger’s (or autism) from a vaccine, or that Asperger’s is even a “disease”. (Some extremely successful people have it.)

It's sort of funny seeing Cartman as a socially successful "restauranteur" with a secret formula for his Carman-burgers.

The script takes the interesting position that people with Asperger's see the world exactly as it is, and that "normal" people can't function if they're forced to deal with "the whole truth." (Is Cartman a "Rosenfelfs feminine" in the "polarity theory"?; a burger manager probably wouldn't be).  Then there are squads of "extraterrestrial aliens" going around managing the truth (an allusion to Facebook?)

There’s a painful possibility introduced, that parents might divorce because the son isn’t “normal” (might not give them grandchildren).  My parents stayed together.

Earlier this evening, Comedy Central aired repeats, including one where Kyle goes to see Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and then wants his money back.  (The animation shows him puke in the theater.)  So they track down Mel, who is shown with gray chest hair (he really doesn’t have much).  Pretty soon the script is having fun with its satire of “religious truth”.

Viewers may remember the 1999 animated film “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut”  (Paramount and WB) where Big Gay Al, very indirectly, gets in his jabs against the old “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and Internet censorship laws (then, the CDA and COPA), in a convoluted plot involving “blaming Canada”.

South Park's site seems to be this

There is a story that the series “The Simpsons”  contract with Fox is in trouble. What will I do without Mr. Burns, who resembles me?

Monday, October 03, 2011

History Channel documents world's (nearly) highest mountain road in Bolivia; are "alien" ruins nearby?

The History Channel ran an interesting documentary “ Death Road”, of a one-and-a-half- lane highway that cuts across the Andes from La Paz, Bolivia, across a 16000 foot pass, and goes all the way down to 2500 feet.

Back in the 1970s, I almost went on vacation there to see Lake Tiahuanaco, and one could have rented a car from Hertz then to drive the road. I suppose it did have to be a 4-wheel drive. So I missed a chance to drive this gem when I was 30 years old.  (By the way, I understand that the over-Andes train doesn't run in Peru any more.) 

This was part of the “Modern Marvels” series.  The driver, a young British man, stopped twice for car inspections, and also to make sure he carried nothing from which drugs could be made.

The road, which runs just 35 miles in the worst part, has no guardrails, over 3000-foot drops.

The government is building a new road, part of which was completed and opened in 2006.  But most settlements are along the old road, and truck drivers get paid for piecework, a kind of "Perfect Storm" economic scenario. 

Somehow, the History Channel documentary reminded me of the 70s movie "Sorcerer" (or "Wages of Fear").

Uphill vehicles have the right of way.

I don't think there is a driveable road that is higher (even in Tibet). 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of “controversial” (alien?) Tiahuanaco ruins.  How about an Imax movie about this site?  Has any visitor been to Tiahuanaco, or driven the Bolivian road?  (In the 1980s, I met someone at MCC Dallas who had been there once.)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

PBS airs Ken Burns's "Prohibition": air times changed, however

Most viewers probably know that Ken Burns is airing his new documentary, “Prohibition”, approximately six hours (actually less), Sun-Tues Oct 4-6 on major PBS stations, with re-airs the following afternoons. There was some confusion as to air time of Part 1, "A Nation of Drunkards". Newspapers printed it as 8 and 10 PM on the East Coast (two performances), but it actually started a bit earlier.

Temperance movements had started before the Civil War, in in the later 19th Century, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was explosively viral (even without an Internet), starting in Ohio. In Kansas, one woman went around taking a hatchet to saloons and signs were posted denying her entry.

The in Oberlin, Ohio another anti-saloon league started. Again, it was amazingly effective.  Brewers, many of them from Germany, organized to buy off politicians and even paid newspapers to write “wet” editorials (so much for objective journalism).

Eventually, as we know, national prohibition was implemented by the 18th Amendment.

The documentary explains the collectivist nature of moral thinking, where alcohol was seen as destroying families or society (or undermining the labor force or enticing revolt), and was not looked out in modern libertarian terms of harmlessness – but today those lines of thought don’t apply to other substances, like marijuana.

The website link is here

The “Prohibition” would set a psychological paradigm for other areas, like gay rights, through much of the 20th Century, where writer Andrew Sullivan often described a “prohibitionist” paradigm.

Here is a 26-minute preview from PBS.

The second part, "A Nation of Scofflaws" looked at the way Prohibition drove illegal activity underground and led to the rise of organized crime as it would dominate the 20th Century.  In Chicago, voters were actually beaten for showing up at the wrong primaries.  The Volstead Act, which "enforced" the Amendment, was written in a way to allow a lot of private workarounds. But occasionally bosses got caught; one had all his belongings sold underneath him by a disloyal wife while he was in prison.

The third part is called "A Nation of Hypocrites".  The Great Depression was being made worse by Prohibition, and people woke up to the idea that they didn't need to tell government how to live all the time, just because of the weakest.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

"Hart of Dixie": CWTV series has concept similar (on surface) to "Everwood" but seems underwhelming

CWTV has started another series about a physician who moves to the countryside. This one is “Hart of Dixie”, on Mondays, created by Leila Gerstein, with the Pilot on Sept. 27 directed by Jason Ensler.

Rachel Bilson plays Zoe Hart, who seems a bit overbearing  and falsely fem in her determination to become a thoracic surgeon in New York City. But she doesn’t get the residency she wants and is told she needs to learn to look at patients as “People to help, not puzzles to solve.”

Pretty soon she is paying her dues, riding a bus (why no car?) down south to join a practice in Blue Bell, AL (not Blue Bell, PA, a corporate suburb of Philly).  Why does she have to live on a plantation, rather than get a house?

Yup, the locals (including the hiring doctor’s partner) don’t like her, until she solves a people-puzzle with an unusual pregnancy and birth right in the office she went to work.

The show is available for viewing now, from here (the Pilot). Trouble is, a series needs a strong Pilot (like "Smallville" had) to build up interest. 

The CWTV playback has excessive commercials, including a blurb for this show, and annoying repeated ads for “The Vampire Dairies” that seem to get almost caught in a loop several times during playback.

The series seems lame, at least at first, when compared to TheWB’s (now ended)  “Everwood”, which became overpowering over the years in the story  of the flawed father-son relationship between a self-exiles surgeon (who doesn’t charge) and the musical prodigy son Ephram.  Everwood deserves to be resurrected, maybe as an indie film, to let us know what happens to Eprham and even Kyle, and Madison. Maybe a good screenwriting contest?