Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"The Men Who Built America" on History Channel: Carnegie and Frick; the Johnstown Flood

The History Channel has been running a series “The Men Who Built America”.  Tuesday night, at 8 PM< it aired a one-hour episode “Blood in America”, about the role of Andrew Carnegie.  Early on, there’s a scene at Carnegie Hall in NYC with the Tchaikovsky Fifth playing (second movement, not the chills-and-fever climax).

The episode begins be reenacting the Johnstown Flood of 1889 (which is also covered by a 2003 documentary “Johnstown Flood” from Inecom, narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Mark Bussler), one of the worst disasters in American history. It was supposedly caused by heavy rainstorms after questionable modifications to a dammed Allegheny lake owned by the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club. This club had links to Carnegie Steel, and some modifications had been made by Henry Clay Frick.  Afterwards, both Fricl and Carnegie tried to make some amends. 

The documentary focuses then on the labor issues for the steel company.  Carnegie hired Frick, who (to cut costs and maximize short term profits) managed labor issues brutally, imposing 72 hour weeks, in the days before unions.   Accidents, with maiming injuries and deaths on the smelter floors, were common.  When workers tried to organize,  leading to the Homestead Strike of 1892, there was armed violence, apparently with the company hiring mercenaries to control the workers.

Frick had certainly made personal enemies by inspiring indignation. In the summer of 1892, an anarchist Andrew Berkman tried to assassinate Frick in his office.  The episode ends with a vivid dramatization of the assassination attempt.  The look of corporate offices, with their limited technology, is quite vividly depicted.
The episode could be taken as an ideological commentary on capitalism.

I visited Johnstown myself in 1994 (after visiting the Horseshoe Bend near Altoona), again in 2007, and then passed through very briefly in 2010.

The link for the series is here

Pictures, from my May 2007 trip.  The film seemed to be overexposed. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ABC 20-20 airs "The Perfect Storm", stories from "Sandy"

ABC 20-20 aired a special report Tuesday night, which it called “The Perfect Storm”, to summarize the effects of hybrid storm Sandy on New York and New Jersey. The title comes from the book by Sebastian Junger and 2000 movie about a somewhat similar 1991 superstorm. 

The most interesting segment was a report by Elizabeth Vargas on her visit to Breezy Point, an area in the Rockaways in Queens, at the end of the A-line, exposed to the ocean on the south Long Island coast, and where many NYC firefighters have homes.  She reported the progress of the storm Monday evening, with the lights going out around 7 PM.  About an hour later, a teenager notices light in the horizon, which they soon realize is a fire that will eventually reach them.  The rest of Vargas’ report covers their harrowing escape.

I recall visiting the Rockaways in the 1970s to go to Jacob Riis Park, taking the A-train to an end point, and then a bus. The map shows Breezy to be on the opposite, west end of the island. 

The other remarkable footage showed how trees fall when soil gets soaked and when it can no longer contain shallow roots when the tree is pushed by wind.  The show presented some footage shot by a 16 year old boy on Long Island when three or more trees fell in quick succession. The film is so effective it could fit into a Hollywood thriller.

Another remarkable story contains how NYU medical center’s backup generator got flooded and did not work, and how many patients had to be rescued and kept alive by nurses without electricity as they were transported to other hospitals.

There was a report by Dr. Richard Besser about flood water contamination.

Piers Morgan has unearthed a story that NYU knew that there could be problems with the generators, link in Bloomberg here. Does this mean that the generators were supposed to be waterproof and weren't?

I lived in lower Manhattan, at 67 E 11th St, the Cast Iron Building, from 1974-1978.  I think I was at around 100 feet elevation, maybe a little less.  That is in the area right now blacked out (below 28th St).  NYU is at about the same elevation (because I used to walk by there) or a little bit less. I'm surprised there would be water problems even with this flood, but maybe there were underground.  Someone who knows the geography of the area now could comment.

Nightline continued the program by calling it "Waterworld", from the 1995 film with Kevin Costner.

Nightline described the horrible plight of Seaside Heights, NJ.   The storm came ashore near Margate. 

  Entertainment & Celebrity News

Wikipedia attribution link for Rockaway map.

"Days" takes Will and Sonny into "revelations"; Will Sonny play father to Will's future child?

On Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, NBC pre-empted its regular programming all day to cover “Hurricane-Noreaster” Sandy in the Northeast, but carried its scheduled programming on a special channel, “NBC Non Stop”, 208 on Comcast in Arlington VA (211 is NBC HD, a mirror of the regular station 4).

Fortunately, the cable stayed up (even when the power didn’t and generator was running), and I got to see Will and Sonny come to a head on “Days of our Lives”.  This was the most explicit gay scene ever on a soap opera as far as I know, and it was quite tender, and it opened the show.  (I may have missed one last week, according to TV Guide).  “Days” always introduces each of the characters (and actors) who will appear that day in the first few takes before the theme music is played.  Chandler Massey and Freddie Smith led off. The previous episode, they had been wearing Halloween masks.

Then Lucas Roberts bangs his fist on the door to Sonny’s apartment, and followed a confusing confrontation.  Will, having dressed hastily before the door opens, stalls his father off, before Lucas tells will he needs to see his grandmother right now; Will doesn’t yet know about the Alzheimer’s. 

In the soap opera world, extended family means everything.  There is no choice about the terms of endearment.  Will has a family duty. 

Then Sonny has to turn all of Lucas’s questions around in the ensuing confrontation.  Sonny seems to be the most dependable person on the show right now.

The rest of the plot has gone to shreds, with meaningless nonsense about the return of another mystery woman form the past.  And Stefano is back from the dead, just as Victoria Grayson does in “Revenge”. And Nicole has tried to frame Jennifer for a miscarriage that had happened before her fall down stairs. 
We all know what will happen.  While Will was proving himself a “man” with Gabbie, we’ll find that he got her pregnant.  (It's about time for her missed period.)  Will and Sonny can become the male couple raising Will’s child.  But Will will need a job, won’t be able to go to college. Sonny seems prepared for  instant fatherhood (from other people’s intercourse), which sounds likes the ultimate irony.  The show is making Sonny the perfect young male role model, even to be a parent. 

Good to see Blake Berris as Nick Fallon back, but the whole story of his character makes little sense to me.

TV Guide has a video embed of Will-Sonny "revelations": 

I guess Salem (supposedly in Ohio), got in on Sandy's "Halloween Blizzard".  
Picture: Hannibal Lecter ("The Silence of the Lambs"), a recent Halloween party.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Does the media overhype the coming storm?

Is the media over-hyping the superstorm Sandy, posing an unprecedented threat?  Is this a one-in-a-lifetime Event?

The various networks vary as to the tone of the impending storm, with CNN having been the most alarmist.

But the particular circumstances have never happened before, where a "hybrid" storm comes on shore.  There have been cold-core winter storms do this (as in late Feb. 2010, when a snowstorm did a similar loop).

How would the media react if a major geomagnetic solar storm (with coronal mass ejections) were to occur? A Carrington-tyle  really can shut down power for months in some areas of the country. Is that the next shock to happen?

Maybe this really is 2012, of "The Day After Tomorrow", or the "purification".

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ABC 20-20 covers psychic premonitions

On Friday Oct. 27, ABC 20-20 aired an episode called "The Sixth Sense" and presented personal stories about psychic premonitions.

One person had written a story about the Titanic years before it sank.

A young mother, when her second daughter was born, had an uncomfortable feeling, and insisted an emergency department keep checking the daughter, until they found a deadly intestinal infection requiring surgery.

A man, on 9/11/2001, had a bad feeling about going into the World Trade Center and took a LIRR home back home.

I remember having a dream around 1:30 AM CDT on 9/11 (I was in Minneapolis) about a nuclear attack on Washington DC, and, when waking up shaking, had to reassure myself this was a dream.  I actually left my apartment to walk the Skyway to work right after the first attack had occurred, and had signed off my computer and TV at home.

The broadcast also covered the story of a neurologist who developed meningitis and says he saw Heaven while he was clinically brain-dead.

The link for the broadcast is here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NBC Rock Center: Lance Armstrong shaved down all these years for nothing

Thursday night, NBC’s “Rock Center” started with “One-on-One’ with President Obama, as NBC follows him for a day of campaigning.

The Romney campaign has yet to grant Rock Center to perform the same tag team exercise with Romney.
Brian Williams tailgates Obama in Iowa, and talks to Obama about the investigations on the attack on Libya.
Williams and Obama go to Las Vegas, and interview workers in the cafeteria of the Bellagio.

Williams says that when he flies at night on Air Force One, he sleeps sitting up.

Two women who knew about Amstrong’s doping talked about his intimidation of them.  One of the women compared Lance Armstrong to Bernie Madoff, in a metaphor from sports to finance. 

Armstrong has been stripped of his titles and wins, as if he had never competed.  He shaved his legs all those years for absolutely nothing.

The latest (from CNN) is that Armstrong is being pursued for all his prize winnings over the years. 

Rock Center has a link for NBC’s interview with Betsy Andreu about Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, here

Thursday, October 25, 2012

PBS "Testing Milton Friedman" series airs on PBS stations

PBS subscribers will want to check out “Testing Milton Friedman” which aired on PBS Howard University Television on Oct. 25. 2012.

The best link, at “The Idea Channel” (from the "Free to Choose" network) , is here

Emily Rooney moderates, and the panelists on the “Government Control
 episode (there is also “Free Markets” and “Equality of Opportunity”) include Amity Shale, Bryan Caplan, Austan Goolsbee, and Clarence Page. 

Many ideas were discussed, including replacing Social Security with private accounts, and limiting litigiousness.

Tapes of Milton Friedman are played, and re-emphasize his idea that the federal government should be limited to its constitutionally explicit powers.

They discussed whether Friedman  would support a balanced budget amendment.

Discussions tended to adhere strictly to ideological lines.

They came back to Social Security, and said that “the real problem is that Social Security is popular”.  Same with Medicare and Medicaid.  Another comment was that young people provided the hope for reform.
The program is directed by Jack Ginay.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Local public television stations have films about "The CCC Boys"

At Big Meadows Visitor Center, the Park Service shows an episode from the “Living in Virginia” series of Virginia Public Television, “The C.C.C. Boys” (26 min, 1999)..  VPT has this link.

During the Depression, in the middle 1930s, young men 18-25 were recruited to work in Civilian Conservation Corps camps around the country. The film shown here depicted the clearing of land and building of facilities in Shenandoah National Park, much of it actually planted as a paradise garden 3000 feet and higher.

Men lived in barracks ran by the Army, and followed military rules in housekeeping and inspections, and life was quite regimented.  Passes were allowed to go into Shenandoah Valley towns on weekends. 

Men were paid $30 a month, but $25 of that was sent to men’s parents back home to support other family members. In that era, adult children were considered responsible for supporting parents and siblings if able and if necessary

However, a little underground economy developed in the barracks.  Men could pay each other small change to get unpleasant chores done, which normally cannot be done in the military proper.

Men also built their own recreational facilities, like gyms and baseball fields.

West Virginia has a similar episode:

PBS Frontline: "Climate of Doubt": politicians are dropping the ball on debating climate change during the 2012 campaigns

On Oct. 23, 2012 PBS Frontline aired a one-hour examination of the political redaction of the global warming debate,  “Climate of Doubt”.  (It could almost have fit into the "Nova" series, too.)

The link is here

The film (directed by Catherine Upin) is motivated by the apparent absence of attention to climate change in the 2012.  It focuses on the way conservative wordsmiths (like Bud Singer) could “twist” the data to make it look like climate change had not happened at all or might have happened because the Sun has grown hotter.  It did cover the emails associated with ClimateGate.  Late in the film, it mentioned the role of lobbying groups like Americans for Prosperity and covered the participation of big oil companies and of the Koch brothers in the denial.  One ad said, “they call it pollution, we call it life.” The film compared the behavior of energy companies to that of big tobacco (“Thank You for Smoking”).

The “naysayers” on climate change claim that the restrictions on human activity associated with addressing climate change would mean restricting individual freedom. 

What seems like a contradiction is that part of the conservative movement, the socially conservative part, likes to talk about the “common good” (like Rick Santorum) and wants people to become more socially connected through families, build more social capital, and demand less freedom to do just what they want as individuals. 

It would also seem that conservatives ought to be concerned about stability of infrastructure.  If you support an oil pipeline like Keystone XL, you ought also to want the power companies to buttress the grid against giant solar storms and coronal mass ejections (these could be a logical consequence of gradual warming of the Sun claimed by some deniers), as well as possible EMP attacks.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PBS airs two documentaries about Cuban Missile Crisis: "Three Men Go to War" and "The Man Who Saved the World"

On Tuesday Oct. 22, PBS aired a one-hour film “Cuban Missile Criris: Three Men Go to War”., directed by Elmer Reynolds and John Murray.   Many journalists and writers, like Tim Naftali, kornbluh, and Michael Dobbs, shed light on the details.

The program begins with a recounting of Kennedy’s famous speech at 7 PM on Monday, Oct. 16. Many of Kennedy’s advisors said that the missiles were not yet ready.  But they would be soon.  Air Force generals could not guarantee that a surgical strike on Cuba would take out everything, leaving southeastern US vulnerable to nuclear attack.

The documentary covers “Black Saturday”, Oct. 27, where the day started with two conflicting messages from the Soviet Union, one of them from Khrushchev more personal, seeking a way out.  The second letter demanded that the US withdraw old missiles from Turkey.

But then one U-2 pilot strayed over eastern Russia, flying south from the North Pole.  Then Rudolph Anderson would be shot down over Cuba.  Kennedy had ordered a Naval blockade.  Late Saturday, Kennedy decided to accept the demand to remove missiles from Turkey. Castro, in the meantime, had issued a statement that he would sacrifice his own homeland to obliteration if Russia would wipe out the US.  Khrushchev, who had once said “We will bury you” was offended, and then more willing to compromise with Kennedy.

The PBS link for this episode is here

PBS followed this with “Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World” (one hour).  This refers to the fact that the four submarines accompanying the Soviet fleet toward Cuba on Oct. 27 each had a nuclear torpedo (as top secret cargo), and the military commander was authorized to use it.  The head was Vassily Arkhipov.  But three commanders could agree to launch a Hiroshima-sized bomb at the US, challenging MAD (“mutually assured destruction”).  The US Navy drove the submarine to the surface with sonar “passive torture”.  Arkhipov  would decide not to allow the men to fire the torpedo, possibly saving the world.  Arkhipov would eventually die of radiation-induced cancer from an earlier Soviet accident.  The discussion of “sonar” is interesting because in the 1980s, Petty Officer Keith Meinhold build his Navy career around submarine detection from the air before challenging the military gay ban.

Here’s a story about Arkhipov by Leon Watson and Mark Duell in the UK Daily Mail, link

Obama wins presidential debate series with foreign policy incumbency

The debate series wound up a spilt (if you count the VP debate as a “passed ball” win for Ryan).  Last night, President Obama’s experience in the foreign policy debate (moderated by Bob Schieffer)  clearly showed, as Gov. Romney seemed to be trying to stalk his shadow. Among the presidential debates, Obama took the series, two out of three.

Romney congratulated Obama for getting bin Laden, and tried to end-around to Obama’s left, saying that we shouldn’t go war mongering.  Obama made some kind of comment to the effect that we shouldn’t worry too much about Iran’s developing the ability to fight with bayonets (like in Army Basic – it’s part of Drill and Ceremonies – and remember the “forward thrust series”),  Obama pointed out that we have aircraft carriers and submarines, almost like the military was a set of pieces in a child’s board game (or call them chess pieces – maybe Obama prefers to two bishops to unbroken pawns, and wouldn’t fear the Nimzo-Indian Defense). 

The debate stayed away from the Libya Benghazi attack on 9/11/2012. Even though Candy Crowley had verified in the previous debate that Obama had indeed called the attack a preplanned attack almost immediately, Obama allowed the media to toy with the idea that it had been caused by a rogue, self-published and self-indulgent video (“innocence of Muslims”) for a few days.  It’s worth noting now that those who used it as an excuse to riot were looking for something to be offended by.  This was not the same thing as shouting “fire” in a crowded stadium.  But the candidates didn’t go there.

This debate was very simple, simply questions from the moderator, just the two men sitting at a table on a split plasma screen, no audience reaction.

It's interesting, as Schieffer noted, that this debate occurred on the 50th anniversary of the speech when President John F. Kennedy warned Americans about the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Zakaria on CNN: "Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Powering America"

Sunday, October 21, 2012, Fareed Zakaria and his Global Public Square aired a special one-hour documentary,  “Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Powering America”.

Zakaria covered several examples of successful energy reform.  In Denmark, right after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, the country ramped up windmill power.  In Germany, despite the cloudy climate, the emphasis turned to solar, with a law saying that power companies have to buy back unused solar power generated from collectors in homes.  France has supplied 75% of its energy from nuclear, with extreme emphasis on standardization, and has the lowest prices in Europe.

The United States has discovered the largest deposit of shale gas in the world, much of it in Appalachia. The process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves injecting water deep into wells to drive the gas out.  Natural gas power plants emit less than half the carbon dioxide of coal-fired plants.

The United States can slowly reduce the percentage of energy coming from fossil fuels over the next 20 years.

Speakers on the program included Tom Friedman, Bjorn Lomborg, and Amory Lovins.

The CNN link for the program is here

“Moms Matter”  and “CafĂ© Mom Studios” has a video on fracking in Washington PA (July 2012),

Friday, October 19, 2012

AC360 gets bizarre reaction from Boy Scouts on scandal; 20-20 talks to Victim 1 in Sandusky trial

This evening, on AC360, CNN reporter Gary Tuckman reported that he tried to talk to Boy Scouts of America officials at their headquarters near Dallas, TX and that the BSA told CNN they wanted to pick the reporter who would interview them about a reported coverup of abuses since the 1960s.  They would not talk to Tuckman, but did talk to WFAA, a local station in Dallas and “apologized.” 

CNN is reporting that some “privately banned” scoutmasters and volunteers eventually returned, and that police were never contacted.  The link for the AC360 story is here

Remember, the BSA has been involved in doubletalk over whether it will ever end its ban on gays (which used to follow the old military lead).  But now its credibility is being shaken, in a manner that reminds one of the Vatican.  And many of the persons involved in abuse were probably "normally" married with families themselves.  ("They always are!")

Tuckman said that the relatively few bad apples (as a percentage of all involved in scouting) will make the whole institution look bad and make many men and dads reluctant to become involved.

Also, on ABC 20-20 tonight, Chris Cuomo interviewed “Victim #1” (Aaron Fisher, now 18) in the Sandusky trial. The details about the controversy over Fisher’s book “Silent No More: Victim #1’s Fight Against Jerry Sandusky” is here.

Here is HLN on the BSA matter, which had broken in the LA Times:

A roommate at the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1961 reported having witnessed an assault at what apparently had been a Boy Scout camp in southwestern Virginia in the summer of 1960.  This had been very traumatic for him. and might have contributed to my own "meltdown" that fall, leading to my leaving, as I have detailed elsewhere in my blogs and books.  So the indirect consequences of events like this can be far reaching. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Suburgatory" is indeed a portmanteau

When I experienced my “second coming” (out) in the early 1970s, my “goal” for a while was to get into the City (New York) and live there so I, logistically speaking, had convenient access to lots of the people I “wanted”.  Suburban life was for people already “committed” to “family life”.  That was my perception. 
Even when riding the subways between Manhattan and the outer boroughs, I noticed that idea.

Such is the concept of the ABC comedy series “Suburgatory” (no second “b”), by Emily Kapnek, with a title which can be called a portmanteau, or combination of two concepts.

The premise of the half-hour sitcom (which started in 2011) is that a father George Altman (Jeremy Sisto) moves to the suburbs (“Chatswin”) to socialize his daughter Tessa (Jane Levy).  Tessa finds the conformity, automaticity and conventionality depressing, thinking she has moved onto a set of “The Stepford Wives” (or maybe its remake).

The previous looked kinky, showing a man with his chest lathered, as if there were some sort of hazing rituals going on in the burbs.  But nothing so much unusual happens in the season 2 pilot, “Homecoming”.  Tessa has actually been able to spend “summer in the city”, getting to know her grandmother.  Well, the girls all look like uniformed DNK’s as they get off the commuter train. During the summer, she found an old cassette tape of her mom, which dad will find threatening.

It’s funny, once I left home for “big cities”, trips to my own parents’ Drohega seemed like “homecomings”.
ClevverTV has this interview of the two leads:

The site for the show is here

On “Modern Family” last night (“The Butler’s Escape”), “Cam” handled the kids in his music class the way I should have when I was a sub (back in 2005).  Maybe I would be teaching now if I had.  He was suitably controlling and manipulative. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama pushes across winning run with "47% issue" in bottom of the ninth

President Obama used his “home field advantage” last night in the debates at Hofstra University (on Long Island), bringing up the “47%” issue during his last “at bat”, trying for the walk-off win. 

Moderator Candy Crowley (CNN) had selected fairly general audience questions about the economy (jobs) and national security, avoiding gay marriage and abortion.  But Crowley seemed to lean hard on Romney, forcing him to detail or nuance his positions further.  Romney didn’t get the benefit of any 3-2-pitch “walks” or free “runs” from Obama this time. (Obama didn't have Drew Storen pitching.)

Obama caught Romney on facts a couple of times.  He said that he had withdrawn oil leases only on energy companies that were not using them but holding them for speculation (the “use it or lose it” idea). Later, he correctly said that right after the attack on the embassy on Libya, he did call it a terrorist attack.  Crowley did some emergency fact checking online and backed him up on that.  But it is true that the major media, for several days, remained focused on the “Innocence of Muslims” video and left the impression that the administration was trying to blame a rogue filmmaker and perhaps bloggers for inciting the attacks.

Obama, to his credit, mentioned a couple times that the wages from a job usually needs to support an entire family, with children and sometimes elders, not just the worker himself.  I'm surprised that Mitt Romney, with the LDS fetish for showing off procreation, didn't say this first.

The president also got in a swing (and perhaps a line drive "opposite field" base hit) at Romney's attack on Planned Parenthood ("got to get rid of that" -- and by the way, see the New York Times editorial on this Tuesday).

I have to chuckle about Mitt's line about reviewing "binders of women" to hire.  Yes, he's a good Mormon. 
Different networks broadcast with varying video techniques.  ABC often used a split screen whereas NBC showed the whole stage, which worked best in widescreen plasma hi-def.  ABC offered a twitter feedback application to viewers through mobile phones.   I didn’t bother with the phone part, but my own twitter feed fed about 30 tweets per minute during the height of the debate.

I wonder, when voters say (in paid ads) that they can't afford "four more years" of Obama, how the forget who was in office for eight years before the Financial Crisis of 2008.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

PBS airs "The Blue Ridge Parkway: A Long & Winding Road"; an odd connection to the history of social security

Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, Maryland Public Television aired the 50-minute documentary “Blue Ridge Parkway: A Long and Winding Road”  sponsored by Lowes, directed by Bruce Bowers, filmed in 2010. The film appears to have an alternate title, “America’s Favorite Journey”.

The film traces the history of the 469-mile scenic road, that starts at the end of Skyline Drive in Virginia and ends in the southern Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. 

The project was launched during the FDR New Deal years.  The film covers the manual labor of the work and suggests that pay as sent home to family members (which could apparently be siblings and parents as well as wives and children) of workers, some of whom had come from the coal fields.

At one time, the intention had been to route the leisure highway westward, around Boone, toward Raon Mountain and into Tennessee.  But politicians in North Carolina, especially in the Asheville area, were able to convince the federal government to keep the entire southern portion in North Carolina.  There was an obscure political deal, “behind the scenes”, and little known to American history, to give President Roosevelt the political support he needed to pass Social Security in the 1930s, if the highway would “only” stay in North Carolina, which in today’s parlance made it rather a pork project.  At the time, some people made arguments that Social Security would be just a dole creating dependency that should be handled by families. But, then, why have a New Deal? The Blue Ridge Parkway project gave a lot of people good jobs when they needed them.

The right-of-way required a lot of use of eminent domain (breaking up some family farms), and most of the surrounding scenery is in private land (whereas on Skyline Drive, most is in National Park land).
The film shows the viaduct near Grandfather Mountain (near Boone and Blowing Rock, NC), and says that the Park Service wanted to build it even higher on the mountain.

Some of the film is narrated by descendants of the original Cherokee.

The link for the film is here

Some personal history: 

As far as I can tell, I last visited Grandfather Mountain in April 1994 (and made a much earlier visit in 1971), and I drove up Mount Mitchell in October 1991 (I also visited the Biltmore Estate, featured in the film “Hannibal” (2000), and the city of Asheville then.)

PBS has also aired a 2-hour documentary called “The Adirondacks” (2008). 

Wikipedia attribution link for Blue Ridge Parkway picture; 

attribution link for Mt. Mitchell picture.

Here's a link for Grandfather Mountain State Park. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Homeland", "Revenge" mind the small stuff

Homeland”  has continued Season 2 with episodes “Beirut Is Back” and “State of Independence”.  What was interesting to me was the way Nicholas’s wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin) gets recruited into helping run a veterans’ fundraiser at an estate.  When she says she has no experience in fundraising, she is told, “we’ll teach you how.”

I’ve never liked to be recruited into begging for money for “other people’s causes” myself (yes, they are my causes, too). But I’ve been approached before.  Once someone at Log Cabin Republicans asked if they could use “my home” when all I had was a small apartment.  Another time, I got in to a party in the Capitol (in the 1990s) where Barney Frank spoke, and I was asked, “Would you like to serve food?”

Showtime has posted an embeddable version of the Season 2 Pilot here (56 min) on YouTube.

On “Revenge”, Episode 3 was titled “Confidence”, and it struck me as rather dumb to have Declan (Connor Paolo) break into a house for “college money”.  Declan was supposed to be a good kid.  I thought Nolan was going to put him through college (maybe with ulterior motives). At least Gabriel Mann shows how you can be 40 and look 25. What a fascinating boyfriend (and "control freak" -- "Nolsoft") Nolan would make. But he isn't real. 

I think it's rather amusing that Emily can afford scuba, escape and evasion, and martial arts training in Japan. She ought to be a Navy Seal. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

CNN: "Voters in America: Who Counts?"

CNN aired a documentary in its “CNN America” series Sunday Oct. 14, called “Voters in America, Who Counts?”, by Joe Johnson. 

The documentary focused on Florida, both on attempts to escort and give transportation to minority voters to polls, and to tricky attempts in the Republican-controlled Florida legislature to make it more difficult for minorities to vote. 

The early part of the show covered a voting rites activist in the Gainveville area; she had been one of the first to enter an all-white high school in Florida in 1964.

One of the major measures is a “provisional ballot” required of new residents in  a county, when the state knows that minorities tend to be more transient.   Provisional ballots are subject to a lot of manual counting and election official “judgment”.

CNN has an account of the show, “Voter ID laws reminiscent of poll taxes”, link here

The documentary was shot mainly in counties in northern Florida, and has some impressive shots of the unusual  skyscraper state capitol in Tallahassee.

A Republican official says that accusations that the GOP needs to manipulate voting laws are themselves “racist”.

Progress Florida discusses “voter suppression bills” in the video above.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ABC 20-20: "Going to Extremes": billionaire tries to marry his lesbian daughter to a man for money; NYC "magic" male model takes body sculpture to extreme

Elizabeth Vargas aired a report on ABC 20-20 last night, “Going to Extremes”.

The most outrageous story concerned a Hong Kong businessman who offers $65 million US ($500 million Hong Kong) to any man who will marry his daughter.

There are several catches. Billionaire and real estate mogul Cecil Chao has never been married himself, although he claims 10000 female “scores”, one of which resulted in a daughter.  And his daughter is a lesbian, and has a partner, who can’t legally marry in Hong Kong (which did remove sodomy laws in 1991).  But a female partner doesn’t count.  So the father pays for the bride’s wedding?  Offers are pouring in, and all are refused.  Does the suitor have to consummate the marriage, too?  The daughter says her father doesn’t understand that women can be gay. 

The photography of Hong Kong was spectacular (but so it was also in the movie "Battleship"). The show didn't mention any affect from China's takeover in 1997. 

Sascha Baron Cohen is said to be writing a new television show based on Chao’s “offer”.  It doesn’t sound funny. 

Vargas went on to cover a young NYC man who has had over 90 cosmetic surgeries in order to look like the perfect clone (hairless)  He said he had been a straight-A student in school. . And then she covered a weight loss diet requiring staying on a feeding tube.

The link for the show is here.   Note: with ABC embed’s, I’ve been getting script errors in IE9 only

Friday, October 12, 2012

"Nashville" (ABC) plays an old theme: show-biz is numbers-driven

The new ABC series “Nashville” is predicated on something we already know but don’t think about: the country music business (as is rock and roll) is predicated very heavily on the numbers business. Say that bout showbiz in general: in TV, for example, Nielsen is desperately trying to figure out how to report Internet viewings of shows to advertisers, as the old rating system doesn't take it into account.  

Rayna James (Connie Britton) is forced to deal with the fact that her music, while perhaps critically well received, is no longer selling enough tickets or enough legal mp3 downloads (I see a future opportunity to play the music piracy problem card later). So her own record company, whose trademark she established, pressures her to double up with a rising young star Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panetierre) on a tour.  She still goes around and calls herself a diva, while her competitor gets played all the time on Sirius XM’s Blend.   (I, for one, enjoy Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson when driving on the open road, especially in the South).

In the classical business (which I am a little bit familiar with because of personal reasons as well as my own upbringing), the economic pressures are more subtle and harder to quantify.  Composers need to get commissions from orchestras or established artists or organizations.  Sometimes they find work in film (Hollywood), or im the high-tech world (especially Apple).  Often, they teach.  It sounds like a good source of material for film or maybe a cable series.
I have to admit I don’t have a lot of familiarity with the area.  I drove through Nashville myself in the early summer of 1988; it has halfway between Dallas and my original “home” in the DC area.  I know Memphis and Knoxville a little better.

ABC’s site for the show is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo of Nashville.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ryan seems to gain a slight edge over Biden tonight in VP debate in substance

The earliest results show a very slight advantage for Paul Ryan in tonight’s Vice-Presidential debate from Danville, Kentucky.

The two vice-presidential candidates sat at a roundtable with Martha Raddatz moderating.

CNN reports Thursday night that 48% of registered voters say that Ryan won, 44% say that Biden won.
Biden was much livelier than Obama had been and constantly pressed for initiative.  He was “feisty” and funny.  On the other hand, Ryan looked like a young man on the stage, almost like he was ready for a disco dancing floor. His hairline doesn't even show a widow's peak. 

Biden brought up Romney’s “47% gaffe”.  But Ryan came back and pointed out that the unemployment rate in Scranton, PA (Biden’s home town) had gone up from 8.5% to 10% during Obama’s administration.
The debate opened with a question about the terrorist attack on the embassy in Libya.  Biden was put on the defensive and had to stand on the idea that the administration would press to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Ryan immediately pointed out that the Obama administration was quick to “blame” the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video, which could have led to calls to suppress free speech and for more Internet regulation.  On the other hand, Biden criticized Ryan for pressing for budget cuts in some security areas.  Ryan seemed to be the candidate tonight presenting himself as “pro freedom”.

There was a long exchange about whether the administration is firm enough on stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.  Biden says that Iran doesn't even have a shell yet even if it has the HEU.  Ryan said that Obama's reticence would be read as weakness. Both sides agreed that the consequences of a nuclear strike by Iran (or its handing a weapon to terrorists) would be grave. 

NBC's "Chicago Fire": we depend on the "selfless" risk-taking of (and disfiguring injury to) others

NBC’s new series “Chicago Fire” premiered on Oct. 10, with a “Pilot” directed by Jeffrey Nacmanoff. The series is created by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas.

The episode starts with a fireman being consumed from a backdraft accident in a building fire (remember Rom Howard’s film “Backdraft”), setting up the familiar situation of a fire company memorializing a loss.
A new recruit (Charlie Barnett) and has to learn the social ropes, including the tough chief (Eamonn Walker), and female recruits, one of whom challenges the recruit with the fact that she is a lesbian when he approaches.

The episode shows female firefighters defusing a potential hostage situation to treat a wounded criminal, then participating in a rescue after a terrible auto accident near the Chicago River, and finally acting again to help save trapped firemen in another building fire near the end.

At one point, we see the terrible body scars that the chief has borne from previous fires.
With my temperament, I could wonder why someone wants to be a fireman, just like wondering why someone wants to be a Navy Seal.  We depend on others to take risks and make sacrifices for us, something we’re not aware of except after calamities like 9/11.  When I was growing up in the 50s, young men who deliberately avoided such risks could be called cowards.  

Many communities also depend on volunteer fire departments, an activity that seems almost incomprehensible for me.  Washington Nationals precocious outfielder Bryce Harper has talked about volunteer fire work – I hope his contract would prohibit it.  (I’ve wondered how he would handle the isse of a Mormon mission – see previous post on this blog about Mitt Romney.)   The second picture above is a fundraising sign for a volunteer fire department in suburban Montgomery Village, Maryland. 

NBC’s site is here

The show competes with “Nashville”, which I co-recorded.  

My most recent visit to the Chicago area was in 2003; most recent substantial visit was in October 1998. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Frontline's "The Choice 2012": it includes an interesting take on Romney's Mormon mission experience

On October 9, 2012 most PBS stations aired a two-hour  Frontline documentary about the 2012 presidential election, “The Choice 2012”.

Watch The Choice 2012 on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The documentary went back and forth in relating the biographies of the two candidates.  Most of the material was familiar.

But one interesting particularly interesting point was made about Mitt Romney’s Mormon mission, even though it has been covered on other documentary broadcasts.  For Romney, the experience was a “rite of passage”, a test of whether he could deal with rejection, proselytizing his faith over the objections that other people would have being approached.  It seems odd to many of us that such activity is seen as morally virtuous: to try convert others to you faith, as a goal to be achieved, trumps over selling them things in a normal business context, and swallows the idea that most people would rather not have visitors knock on their doors.  Yet, in business, “overcoming objections” is often seen as an important skill.

The documentary also covered his auto accident in France in 1962 and narrow miss with death.

Later, it covered his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 presidential nomination.  It did not pay much heed to the 2012 primary race, where in the beginning he had trouble putting away Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. 

It also gave a history of the "individual mandate" for health insurance in Massachusetts, and Romney, as governor, had no problem with the idea of the mandate.  The argument that the mandate is necessary to take care of the pre-existing conditions problem is presented. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Katie covers "Heaven", following earlier 20-20 broadcast

Monday (October 8, 2012), Katie Couric, on her “Katie” show, covered “To Heaven and Back”, an hour that supplements 20-20’s “Heaven” (July 7, 2012).

Katie started by interviewing the Long Island Medium Teresa Caputo. 

She then moved on to interview orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mary Neal, author of “To Heaven and Back” from Waterbrook Press.  She had an accident (in South America in 1999) while white water rafting and almost drowning.She say a glimpse of heaven and of former loved ones, spirits who had bodies at their best ages (essentially frozen in time in a physics sense). Pets and children were there.  She told a story of a son who at age 8 said  Jesus had told him he would die at age 18.  She had always gone to church as a Presbyterian but had never been deeply religious.  That son (she has three other kids) would die in a roller skating accident at age 19. 

Katie then presented pastor Todd Burpo and his 13 year old son Colt, who said he saw Heaven at age 4 when he had a burst appendix.   Dr. Burpo’s book is “Heaven Is for Real” (Thomas Nelson).  The boy found his second sister, of miscarriage, in Heaven; he had not known about the sister.  Colt said that he also saw an image of Satan in Heaven.

Last, Katie introduced painter Atiane Kramarik, now 18, who had created paintings of Christ as a child, particularly “Prince of Peace”, which presents  Jesus as an attractive, rather virile young adult male. 

My own perception of the afterlife is that it should be much less "physical" than ours and on a timescale that is cosmological -- unless one is reincarnated. Perhaps time freezes at an optimal point for each person.  Who would not like to be 20 years old again, with the wisdom of a whole lifetime?   
Katie’s link for this particular program is here.

Here's an article for Discover by Sean Carroll ("Cosmic Variance"), "Physics and Immortality of the Soul", link.

Update: Oct. 16

Check Dr. Eben Alexander in Newsweek, Oct. 15, 2012, "My proof of heaven: when a neurosurgeon found himself in coma, he experienced things he never thought possible -- a journey to the afterlife, link here.  

PBS: "As Goes Janesville", aka "Does GOP WI Gov. Scott Walker observe Labor Day?"

On Monday October 8, some PBS stations (MPT in Annapolis, MD) aired “As Goes Janesville” (directed by Brad Lichtenstein) as part of its Independent Lens series.

The hour long documentary examines economic recovery for Rock County, around Janesville, in southern Wisconsin, after a GM auto plant close in 2008.

Local business activists form a group called “Rock County 5.0” to “proselytize” to build a pro-business environment for the county. 

When Scott Walker wins the governorship as a Republican, the people of the town are divided.  Some businessmen are delighted.  But there’s a scene where an overweight African American woman complains that “the Republicans think that if you’re poor you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  But some people can’t do that.”  But of course, one can argue, is that the responsibility of government (or even unions), or of other individual people?

Soon Scott Walker took on the public employee unions, as the movie shifts to Madison. This was called “Union Busting 101”.  In the legislature, Democrats went on the lam to Illinois to avoid voting on the issue.
Then David Koch (covered on my movies blog Sept. 20 and Sept. 26, 2012 – “Koch Brothers Exposed”) makes a call pressuring Walker not to back down.  In the meantime, vigorous demonstrations break out in Madison.

The film has a high school commencement scene with a stirring rendition of the Elgar Pomp and Circumstance March.  But then it goes right to presenting unemployed people.

There was a viral Twitter joke, that Scott Walker doesn’t take Labor Day off. 

The film is also distributed by Arc Light Cinema.  The PBS link is here
I remember passing through Janesville on I-94 on Labor Day (again, ironically speaking now) 1997, when I was moving to Minneapolis because of a job transfer.  I also stopped in Madison that day for lunch, and have visited the capital many times. 

The Maryland Public Television link for the show is here

Wikipedia attribution link for Janesville picture. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

GPS: Zakaria interviews Salman Rushdie about a past fake apology

On his Global Public Square program, Fareed Zakaria Sunday (Oct. 7) interviewed author Salman Rushdie (“Satanic Verses”), against whom Islamic radicals (Shiites, in Iran) issued a fatwa in Britain after his book was published.

Rushdie said that at first the British government would not stand by him.  Eventually, he issued a false apology  (rather like "Argo"_ for insulting Islam, and then said that he felt bad about himself for doing so.

Rushdie, however, would eventually be knighted in 2007.
Zakaria said this was the first major incident where artists (authors, filmmakers) who were not themselves religious were threatened by others for blasphemy.  Of course, this foreshadows what would happen with Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (“Submission”) and then the controversy over “Innocence of Muslims” this year.

However, the incident does underscore the idea that people can make enemies and make themselves (and family members, even those other than their own children such as parents and siblings) targets if the enemies are from much more "collectivized" cultures than our own.

As for Rusdie's shame, this sort of thing has happened a lot under communism, especially to Soviet artists and composers. 

GPS has a brief web preview of the show here.

IBN live has a 42 minute interview with Rushdie on IBN (Zubenelgenubii, two weeks ago).

Saturday, October 06, 2012

ABC 20-20 reports on a graphic stalking case from Georgia, then asks if we are all guilty of it

ABC 20-20 last night, in an episode called ‘Stalker”, told a complicated and terrifying story. Back to that in a moment.  The most important segment was the last one, where Chris Cuomo discusses the idea that we are all “stalkers” (at least 30% of us) in following ex-es and “non Friends” on Facebook and Twitter. (Of course, all modern social media platforms give users the ability to restrict who can see various portions of content, but not everyone wants to use it.) 

Minor episodes of following celebrities have been in the news for years.  About ten years ago, a woman was told by a New York City court to stop showing up where George Stephanopoulos hangs out.   In 1986, when I was on jury duty in Dallas, another potential juror thought I was “following him”.  Unusual incident, maybe the “roach problem”.

But the main story on ABC was terrifying.  The main link is here. (I’m not giving embeds right now because I’m getting scripting errors from ABC on IE9 in Windows 7 (not getting errors in any other environments;  I recommend Chrome and Safari for Blogger viewing in general, and particularly for any ABC News sites or show videos.)

The case goes back to the 1990s, a trial of Waseem Daker, who acted as his own defendant on a late trial for the murder of a flight attendant and attack on her son.  Earlier, the whole episode had started with persistent stalking to the flight attendant Lottie Spencer. He had spent ten years in prison for that, and when he got out, went after her and the son, Chris Smith. 

Chirs Cuomo has said that "stalking" is troubling legally because safety may demand police intervention when the perpetrators really hasn't yet "done anything".

Dailymail in the UK has another account of the case (in Georgia) here

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Romney edges Obama in bottom of the ninth in debate

The rather formal debate last night between President Obama and Mitt Romney, moderated by Jim Lehrer, at the University of Denver, became the main television event on Wednesday night on CNN and broadcast networks, once it was clear that the Yankees would clobber the Red Sox  (14-2) on ESPN, the main competition for ratings (and very important!).

It started rather trivially, with the president recognizing his wedding anniversary (marriage demands that), and then Mitt Romney noting that the president has to spend time with “me”.

The president seemed specific when saying that revenues, after GOP upper income tax cuts, would make up the deficit, but Romney seemed to come back and say he had never called for tax cuts that would continue increasing debt.

Romney seemed to suggest that we cannot pay for government-guaranteed health care and for everything else.  He talked, in libertarian fashion, about powers explicitly granted Congress and the federal government.  He referred to a constitutional right to “the pursuit of happiness” (almost as if lout of my first DADT book, Chapter 6), and said that this required a strong defense, but also noted that people need to take care of one another, including the most vulnerable, rather than depending on government to do that.  Mormon culture is very good with this.

At the very end, Obama noted the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”.

News analysts afterward said that Romney’s proposals would not take care of health insurance for those with pre-existing conditions if they had not had health insurance during the past several months. 

It seemed as though most observers felt that Romney had “won” the debate and would draw closer in the polls the next couple of days.

The president did not mention the “47%” issue, and Lehrer never asked about it. 

Although Obama, as the incumbent, should have "home field advantage", Obama spoke first and Romney batted last (in comparison to baseball, where the home team can score a walk-off win).  Obama spoke for more elapsed minutes than Romney (that is, held the football longer).  But in the end, Romney probably edged him out.

Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that Romney was specific in the debate that he would not cut taxes in a way that increases the deficit, but that clarification seems new.  Romney also admitted the need for some financial regulation.