Monday, August 31, 2009

Dr. Phil gives "recession survival guide"


Today, Aug. 31, Dr. Phil provided his “Recession Survival Squad”. I see that I covered a similar show Dec. 8, 2008 (that was show 1183), but this appears to be a different show (1298), with direct link here (show 1298).

This was about cutting out all expenses you don’t need to stay alive and keep your family together. This was about giving up cable and cell phone, clipping coupons, and mass hitting the job market to take grunt jobs. Or perhaps go for jobs that some people frown upon as not so reputable, such as selling insurance. It was not pleasant.

Recent unemployment media reports suggest a peak in the official unemployment rate of over 10% this winter. This show appears to have aired some time after the 2008 crisis broke, but it may be even more applicable now.

Tony Beshara, author of The Job Search Solution, appeared. The book, published by AMACOM, dates back to 2006.

Dr. Phil made the interesting and apropos point that the people could eventually recover individually from the recession, but the family might split apart in marriage. Yesterday, as I noted on my retirement blog, people are contemplating divorce today because of spouse’s long term care expenses.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"Cats" on NatGeo (In and Out)


Tonight, National Geographic Channel presented a particularly interesting segment of “In the Womb” – that is “Cats”, like the Broadway musical. There was no McCavity, but there the one hour documentary showed fantastic footage of the developing house cats (septuplets) and developing lions (triplets), the latter in a wildlife preserve. The link is here.

The show went into details as to how cats, as mammals, differ from humans, and as to how lions differ from house cats. All cats derive from a common ancestor about 10 million years ago.

The most important difference is social. Lions are the only cats that live in family groups or prides, with a social structure with some analogy to wolves. The “hyper-individualism” model (cats) vs. “family” (dogs) contrast is very important in the mammal world. It’s also very important in the “people-world” culture wars: the individualist believes he can choose all his emotional commitments.

The cat and kitten footage, in and out, is spectacular.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

History Channel documents America's "cultural revolution" in 1969 (yes, that includes Stonewall)


The History Channel tonight, after the Kennedy funeral concluded (during which it showed the Woodstock documentary, already reviewed here), showed a documentary about the 60’s “cultural revolution” – in the US that is (not Chairman Mao’s). The documentary itself is almost G-rated (officially it was TV-PG), except for the title of the film and a few daring terms (“p-c wars”), usually used clinically, but the title of the film itself sounds like R. It’s “Sex in ’69: Sexual Revolution in America.” Yes, to college men of that era, the title sounds like a pun.

There was a change in thought in the 60s – a change in self-perception, perhaps as exaggerated by the Hippy culture in Haight Ashbury and elsewhere: “freedom” meant looseness, the ability to do what you want, share property, have no self-defined individual purpose, to be away from the measures that other people applied to you. This mindset can eventually lead to existential contradictions.

The film moves on to sexual morality, and the old idea that sexuality should be dedicated to procreation only. Why? So that everyone will share the “risk” and responsibility of raising the next generation (and, now, caring for the last). But that was no longer rational in individualistic terms.

The film moves on to Jim Morrison, and the obscenity trial in Miami, and his conviction. Later Anita Bryant would become famous for her anti-gay crusade in 1977.

It talks about Hugh Heffner and the “play thing” mentality, and then goes on to Billy Graham’s crusade even to clean up Broadway (Oh! Calcutta!), hailed by critics. Actors could be arrested for appearing, but the NYPD didn’t close it down. The show would run for 22 years.

Hollywood’s old production code was changing. In 1965 the Best Picture was “The Sound of Music”; in 1969 it would be “Midnight Cowboy.” But the real shocker was a Swedish film “I Am Curious Yellow” (also Blue). Then came “open marriage” and “Bob Ted Carol and Alice”.

1969 was, of course, the year of the Stonewall Rebellion in NYC, that would lead to the modern gay rights movement. A few years before, most gay bars in NYC had been closed down to “clean up” the City for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair (which I attended in August 1964). The film covered the status quo even in NYC until Stonewall: men were not allowed to touch or wear women's clothes in bars. After bar raids (often avoided by Mafia-style protection), names of arrested men were published in newspapers, an old variation of "reputation attack".

The film covered John and Barbara Williamson and the Sandstone Retreat in Topanga Canyon. “Life” was more fun if you didn’t have babies, or if you didn’t have to think about the state of American culture. The “Black Bear Ranch” commune (subject of a film named “Commune”) would be similar.


The link for the film is here.

A lot about our outlook changed in 1969: that was the year man walked on the Moon, three weeks after Stonewall.

The documentary airing was sponsored in part by “The Institute for Human Continuity” – that is, the movie "2012" from Columbia Pictures. The website is real; try it. I don’t think the lottery is real. The idea was already tried in “Deep Impact” in 1998. How does that connect to the Vatican idea that sexuality is only for procreation?

Friday, August 28, 2009

ABC 20-20 covers "morality play" with water rescue


Tonight ABC 20-20 featured several stories, but the most important to me was the morality play in a runoff pool in the western Colorado canyonlands, where college kids were trying dangerous dives (because of cold and shallowness) from cliffs. A girl dived into the spring runoff water and got into trouble. Above her, Steve Burns, having resisted the temptation to dive 65 feet, dove in to rescue her and did, only to be swept clear by a current and die of hypothermia.

The news story by Jay Schadler and Howie Masters is “In Moment of Crisis, River Hero Took the Plunge: Stevie Burns Watched From Cliff as Friend Gasped for Air Below. Then He Jumped.”. The link is here.

The news story sounds like a tragic add-on to TheWB’s “Everwood” series, which ended in 2005.

As a teen myself, I would have been afraid to go close to the edge. I was the opposite of a daredevil, but in 1950s culture (where men had to be "men") I was perceived as a bit of a physical coward, willing to leave the risk taking and fighting to others. I was both a nerd and a "sissy" and in that culture this was seen as a "moral" problem. A story like this puts a two-way perspective on the "morality" of physical risk taking, normally part of growing up. It's linked to the "teen brain growth" issue.

In tenth grade, I wrote a short story in English class about a lifeguard who loses his life saving another person because a nuclear attack happens.

I liked the report that followed, about a helicopter Mom, well versed in online skills with Facebook and Twitter, and her two college boys. She shouldn’t proofread her kids’ term papers.

I remember a 20-20 of another tragic story of a hiker who died in New Mexico and his companion was suspected of foul play, in a real life story that somewhat resembled the movie "Gerry".

Attribution link for Wikipedia Grand Junction area picture. My last visit was in 1994. It looks a little like Mars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ABC and NBC: "Remembering Ted Kennedy"


On Wednesday August 26 ABC News presented a one hour special “Remembering Ted Kennedy” in its Primetime Hour slot.

The documentary characterized him was one of the most successful and pragmatic politicians ever, one who always showed compassion and who would “pay it forward”. He (“The Liberal Lion”) gave new meaning to the term “liberal”.

The report also portrayed him as one of the earliest major national politicians who stood up for gay rights.

The main news link for the show is this.

A similar MSNBC video is here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"The Day the Moon Was Gone": The Universe, History Channel


Tuesday August 25 the History Channel aired “The Universe” episode “The Day the Moon Was Gone.”

As NatGeo’s “Alien Planets” covered, the Moon was created about 4-1/2 billion years ago by a collision with a smaller planet originally at the Lagrange point in Earth’s orbit.

The Moon gradually retreated to its present distance of 234000 miles, and it still retreats slowly.

The Moon has a stabilizing effect on the Earth’s tilt and precession, much the way a high-wire walker uses a pole. The Moon slows down the Earth’s rotation, making the climate more stable. The Moon stabilizes the magnetic field and encourages plate tectonics on Earth, all of which favored a more slowly changing climate that eventually allowed complex life to form. Without the Moon, tides would be much stronger and so would hurricanes. Sea level would be much higher, and the amount of land surface might be much less.

Around other stars, Earth-like planets without a large Moon may be common, and they may be completely covered by ocean. Mars lost its magnetic field and much of its atmosphere and the chance for plate tectonics (and probably its water) because it does not have a large moon.

Attribution link for NASA picture of moon craters http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moon-craters.jpg

Monday, August 24, 2009

NatGeo: "Locked Up Abroad": British couple caught with drugs in transit in Mexico -- "don't do it!"


On Monday, Aug. 24, Natgeo presented a one hour film demonstrating the risks that people face overseas if they take any “changes” with drugs. A young British couple needed money for the winter to stay in the Caribbean, and was approached to transport marijuana from Costa Rica to Amsterdam. The couple got an all-expenses-paid vacation on Costa Rica for two weeks, and then was accosted to carry the drugs, which were much heavier in mass than they expected. Apparently the payload included cocaine. They were not able to "get out" of the deal.

They got through a nervous moment in customs in Costa Rica, but the plane stopped in Mexico City. They were called off the plane, their bags searched, and they were arrested. They were almost immediately sentenced to ten years in Mexican prison, which is horrible.

The link for the show, “Locked Up Abroad”, is here.

Wikimedia attribution link for Mexico City picture here. I visited the City once, in 1974.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

NatGeo: "Alien Earths"; Hawking's Universe


On Sunday Aug. 23, National Geographic aired the one-hour “Alien Earths,” with this link. However, most of these "Earth's" were far from the "Earth 2" that featured Antonio Sabato in the early 1990s.

The first topic was “hot Jupiters”, or gas giants orbiting very close to their parent stars. There is iron vapor and iron rain in the atmospheres of these planets. One of the planets has been called “Osiris.”

Many planets are in highly elliptical orbits, and either the original planets or their moons could have extreme seasons, with water boiling away in the short summers and freezing for long winters; a caricature of the climate in Minnesota.

Rogue planets (like the “Planet X” in the 1951 movie) could carry moons and generate enough gravitational tides to support some kind of chemistry on its moons.

There may be billions of earth-sized planets in our galaxy, including “super earths”. The smallest such planet found so far is about 5 times the mass of Earth and may have an ocean a thousand miles deep, with a layer of “ice 7” created by pressure.

Closer to the center of the galaxy there is more carbon, and there may exist earth-sized worlds with reducing atmospheres like Saturn’s Titan, perhaps even with diamonds on the surface. Some astronomers predict carbon monoxide atmospheres.

The Earth at one time had a Mars-sized planet in its orbit with which it collided, to form the (large) Moon.

The program was followed by “Naked Science: Hawking’s Universe”. The program covered how gravity is a manifestation of space-time, and how the universe could develop from an essential singularity of pure gravity. The biography of Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with ALS at 21, was also covered. The weakening of gravity when the universe began is critical and is discussed.

Gravity seems to disburse into other dimensions or branes on a microscale. The Hadron collidor will cause the dimensions to collapse in extremely small nanospaces of collisions, leading to the fleeting formation of mini-black-holes, which should evaporate (as Hawling radiation).

Attribution link for artist’s drawing on Wikipedia of Gliese 581d, from the article on extrasolar planets.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Roger Weisberg's "Critical Condition" POV shown on Bill Moyers Journal


Bill Moyers Journal on PBS tonight (Aug. 21) presented a documentary by Roger Weisberg, “Critical Condition” that resembled a 2008 documentary by Sanjay Gupta on CNN. The program covered several people with inadequate health insurance.

One man had gross liver failure without obvious cause (no alcoholism, no hepatitis) and lost his job for non-performance and then health insurance. He bought and took less insulin than needed and reused needles. A Hispanic man had severe back problems and almost died from bleeding from misuse of pain medication; he was lucky enough to get some care for free at UCLA. (I recall this patient from CNN.) Another woman had a major cancer, and would then cut off her phone to stop the calls from collection agencies. I recall when I worked for a collection company, I was acquainted with the medical division, but did not work there; the argument was “you used the services, so …”

We’ve seen previous PBS documentaries (“Sick Around the World”) showing that people do not have to go bankrupt in Europe over health insurance.

The viewpoint of the documentary is that we do ration care in the US – by ability to pay.

At the end of the 45 minute documentary, Bill Moyers followed up on the patients. The website and trailer are here. Next week Moyers will present “money driven medicine”.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oprah presents British adventurer with outdoor survival tips


Today, Aug. 20, Oprah presented a show on surviving emergencies, and she led off the show for the first half hour with British explorer Bear Grylls, the youngest tramper to conquer Mt. Everest. Grylls did not look like a bear when he disrobed to show what you do if you are wet in a wintry situation.

Grylls showed six everyday objects, often used by women, that could save their lives in wilderness emergencies. These included lipstick, dental floss, tampons, and condoms.

Grylls also described the hazardous work done by porters or patrols in extreme mountainous areas to save the injured or recover “corpses.” He said that most people have poor intellectual judgment about their capabilities at high altitudes.

The link for the show is here and explains the objects in more detail.

Oprah also presented two teenagers who were struck by lightning while hiking. They showed the remains of the trousers. They had burns but both recovered.

I recall descriptions of guided climbs of Mt. Rainier, where the second day everyone rises at 2 AM, to get off the summit before thunderstorms strike.

Wikipedia attribution for Mt. Washington NH picture (I visited in 1961, 1976).

ABC Nightline provides major update on Billings (Pensacola, FL) case


ABC Nightline, on Wednesday Aug. 19, reported “disturbia” details about the Byrd and Melanie Billings murders near Pensacola, FL. Cynthia McFadden reported on the July 9 crime. Jeffrey Kauffman reported.

The media has heavily covered the well coordinated “attack” on the well-liked couple that were raising 17 children, mostly adopted and disabled. The question was “why”, and the (Escambia County) sheriff had proffered that the details sounded like a movie script (or Dateline story), a “humdinger”. Nevertheless, police have first insisted that the primary motive was robbery. Eight suspects are in jail in Florida awaiting formal prosecution and trial.

ABC has a report by Sarah Netter and Lee Ferran discussing in some detail what one or more of the children say they witnessed (“bad men”), link here.

The story goes into an apparent statement by one of the statements that it could be a contract killing (or “hit” or “whacking”) possibly related to drug cartels. Nevertheless, it’s very important to note that the media has not reported any credible information that either of the Billings couple had done anything normally considered to be illegal or wrong.

Mr. Billings was in loan-related business (I would suspect debt collection). I’ve worked in that business once myself and I know that running that kind of business requires a certain amount of social aggressiveness that does not appeal to a lot of people (including me). It’s believable that in such a business one encounters ethical or legal “areas of gray” that could lead indirectly to trouble, even unintentionally. In Kaufman’s video (where he interviews a Pensacola reporter in detail), the (oldest) daughter is shown as saying “everybody has enemies” but meaning that by implication the family had no special problems compared to anyone else. The media reports that the daughter will run Mr. Billings's businesses and take custody for and raise all the children.

This past spring and summer, Anderson Cooper (AC360 on CNN) and others have reported on how drug cartels (from Mexico and Colombia) work with gangs inside the United States in some cities, and how they can present a serious homeland security problem comparable to that of radical Islam. This problem was explored in the 2001 film “Collateral Damage” by Andrew Davis, held up by Warner Brothers for a while after 9/11.

The archive for the case in the Pensacola News Journal is here.

Attribution for Wikimedia link for Pensacola picture

I visited Pensacola in November 1998 (including the Brownsville Assembly of God). Not many people realize that it is far enough west to be on Central Time.

It strikes me that, while what the Billings family did is seen as "good", they were able to be generous because they did have a good marriage and wealth, adn could make "choices". Mr. Billings needed to exert a lot of "power" in his business life to provide for adopted children with special needs. On the other hand, it seems that the daughter does not get to make a "choice" to carry this special mission on. To me, at least, this seems like an important point. But, as Rick Warren says, it isn't (always) "about you."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ABC Primetime: "The Outsiders": UFO Abductees tell their stories


Tonight, Aug. 18, ABC Primetime “The Outsiders” presented “Abducted by Aliens? Believers Tell Their Stories”. Juju Chang and Jim Dubreuil wrote the news story, here.

Twin sisters told a story, as did a former marine who said he was visited his apartment in Suffolk, VA. But the most telling story probably came from Stan Romanek, who showed video of bizarre objects near Denver, and multiple stigmata on his body, especially near his knee. He also showed still photos of “baghead” faces that appeared mysteriously on his camera.

But one psychologist presented the theory that “paralysis of sleep” generates false memories of abduction and medical examination. Many of the abductee stories start at night, in bed (although that was not true of Betty and Barney Hill).

The show included clips from the 1997 movie “Contact” (based on Carl Sagan’s novel) and the new flick “District 9”. There was also discussion of the SETI project.

The series title “Outsiders” is funny to me. In the Army, on KP, we had an “outside man”.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA-SETI graph (pd).

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Woodstock: Then & Now" on History Channel


I was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Eustis, VA in the summer of 1969, and vaguely remember the reports of the Woodstock festival dripping back to our barracks.

On Monday Aug. 17, the History Channel aired a two-hour documentary “Woodstock: Now & Then”, link here. The film recounts the enormous traffic jams and physical squalor of the muddy quagmire of an event attended by half a million people.

There was plenty of free love and protests of the Vietnam war. The concert would be followed by Algenon, and then by the tragedy at Kent State in Ohio in May 1970.

The documentary also covered the filming of the movie "Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music" by Michael Wadleigh. In “Superscope” it spanned three hours, and I saw it in Indianapolis in 1970. It was like an indie film but was distributed by Warner Brothers which, according to the documentary, tried to yank the film away.

There is a controversial YouTube posting (Joe Cocker, Arlo Guthrie) critical of the WB remaster here. Note his DMCA worries.

Home movies from Barbara Bedic



Attribution link for public domain copy of original Woodstock poster on Wikipedia.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

NBC's SNL takes irony to the ultimate (replay of Halloween)


On Aug. 15, NBC SNL was hosted by Jon Hamm (sounded like a political repeat of October surprises from 2008), with music by Coldplay.

One opening skit was pretty ironic. A man knocks on the door on Halloween and says he is using the special day to satisfy the legal requirement that he tells everybody he is a registered s.o. living next door to your kids. In fact, in most states, such men are quarantined on Halloween. This one was pretty sick! So how about some irony, self-parody. Of course, if an ordinary person wrote and published something like this on the Web, it would ruin his "online reputation." He'd hear something like "she was offended by it."



Bill Clinton, and then "Senator" Joe Biden (the Blue Hen State) joined the party later.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oprah covers "what women want"


Today, Friday Aug. 14, Oprah had a show where “Women Reveal What They Really Want” (as in the movie “What Women Want”, and it’s not always depilatory strips). She talked about how women (and men) lose interest in their fantasies and settle for what’s realistic. Some experiments from the Discovery Channel’s “The Science of Sex Appeal” (reviewed her Feb. 9 2009) were repeated, in which men who scored a particular number went up or down when women were given fictitious information about earnings. The episode is probably a repeat, but I had not seen it.

Women probably fantasize less about the “looks” of the perfect mate less than men, even though Hollywood has its ideas (or ideals or idols) of male perfection (the latest fad is Zac Efron). In time, women are more likely to feel attracted to men who can provide for them (make money) and remain stable.

The “rites of passage” of young manhood often seemed, like when I was growing up, like an exercise in competitive triage. It came across as a “contest” to see who was suitable to carry on the face. That’s how I came to see it as a teen, since I was on the short end of the stick “competitively” back in the 1950s. I never quite got beyond that. Logic is brutal.

The Oprah link is here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CNN: "Generation Islam" examines Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza


Christiane Amanpour presented a two hour special “Generation Islam” on CNN on Thursday Aug. 13, 2009 at 9 PM EDT. The basic link is this.

The first hour depicts life in Afghanistan, particularly for children. Kids often sleep two to a bunk, and young boys have to go out and work for their families. In some areas, going to a madrasah is almost a stepup, but then they are forced to memorize the Koran and get no modern education. In more progressive areas, women may go to school, and the education of women is seen as a firewall against the resurgence of extremism.

There was a sequence of boys at play in a skateboard park in Kabul. There was also mention of the “Afghan Star” contest, subject of a recent independent film about an “American Idol” style competition.

Some of the hour also dealt with the Swat valley in Pakistan, as “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation” here.

The second hour deals with Gaza. In the Muslim community, a third of the boys say they would like to become martyrs, and the learn that their parents cannot protect them. There was depiction of hate within the families. The film then turns to “the making of a militant”. Later the show examines teaching young Palestinian boys non-violence, using the Muppets and a Palestinian version of Sesame Street.

At the end, the film presents a 21-year-old documentary filmmaker, Nasser.

Attribution link for NASA map of Holy Land.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On ABC Primetime "The Outsiders"


On ABC Primetime “The Outsiders” last night (Aug. 11) men were shown living with lions and hyenas. In the story by Kimberly Launier, “Animal Lover Kevin Richardson Serenades 350-Pound Lionesses With Love”
Living With Lions: Man Tests Limits of Inter-Species Relations With Boundless Affection”, link here. Kevin Richardson sleeps with lionesses (reminding us of “Elsa” in “Born Free”). Richardson raised a pride of lions, who accepted him as a member of the family.

Richardson also befriended hyenas, normally mortal enemies of lions; in the show they looked like dogs.


This reminds one of a previous show where a British couple assimilated into the social hierarchy of a pack of wolves in the lake country of England.


In a related video a full-grown 500 pound male lion cat “Brutus” charges trainer Dave Salmoni, here.

A story on July 14 on ABC , by Dan Harris and Aram Karamehmedovic, a woman, Laurie Maker, was shown saving Cheetahs (see blog post that day).

In Shenandoah National Park yesterday, along Skyline Drive, a man was playing with a wild black bear cub if he were a dog. I couldn't reach the camera fast enough. Later, a deer sat in the middle of the drive on a curve and stopped both me and a school bus from the other direction.

Monday, August 10, 2009

PBS presents Ric Edelman and "Rescuing Your Retirement"


Ric Edelman presented “Rescuing Your Retirement” on WETA PBS Monday Aug. 11. The link is here .

It requires “cognitive thinking” and understanding the difference between “effectiveness” and “efficiency.” He presents many riddles and puzzles where people ask the wrong question. Future wealth is the object of the chess endgame here.

Make the maximum contribution to your IRA at work, and don’t convert to Roth, he says. Think long term (Suze Orman says that, too). Even if the stock market falls by half, you will break even.

He tends to ignore the value of real estate that you live in even if you’re not upside down.

He is wary of employers who encourage employees to invest too much in their own stock (“proud papa bias” or “optimism bias”).

He defines "endowment bias" or the "herd mentality" which means "misery loves company". Too many employees "buy high and sell low".

He says that 83% of employers leave their 401K contributions in employers when they leave or get laid off. That's wrong because a company might not be around. It's possible even for a previous employer in which you were vested (5 years or more) to have money that you have forgotten about; it may pay to check the owning company today and try to track it down!

He says keep your return expectations reasonable, to keep your risk within bounds.

Ric Edelman has a website here. There is an Elder Financial Care Free Report.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

CNN: Inside Afghanistan: "Witness to War"


On Saturday CNN aired a one-hour special “Witness to War” with Nic Robertson. The website prefixes the name of the show with “Inside Afghanistan”, but the program also covered Taliban activity in Pakistan. The main link is here.

Reza Sayah and Atiua Abawi appeared. The show took the position that as long as the media was focused on Afghanistan, the situation improved. Once the emphasis changed to Iraq in 2003, the faith of the population in the new government of Karzai tended to deteriorate and the Taliban tended to gain strength.



The program also covered the situation in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, and took the position that the next 9/11 could come from there.

The people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, while having low literacy, want stability and peace. They may turn to the Taliban in some areas if the Taliban pretend to do this better than western-influence governments.

The 8 PM airing EDT was interrupted by a live press conference from the NTSB in Hoboken NJ about the helicopter-small plane crash yesterday, but the complete show was re-aired at 11 PM EDT.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Jared & Jensen": "Supernatural" sports its two "role model" brothers in a mag; Oprah marked for a trillion


The CWTV show “Supernatural” offers a flashy mag “Jared & Jensen look forward to Season 5”, at Barnes and Noble and other chain stores.

The last names of the two Texan actors, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. The latter, who plays the hothead older brother (and cop) Dean Winchester in Supernatural, had played Coach Teague in Smallville and bad his torso carved up a few times by Lex. Jared plays Sam Winchester, who has graduated from Stanford and is headed for law school before he goes on an endless road movie trip with Dean looking for the supernatural explanations of his family tragedy. Sam is the steadier of the two, the role model, but has to thwart off the devil’s attempts to possess him in exchange for Dean. The series has constant scenes where demons or vampires vomit ash, and in Season 1 there is a great scene where Sam does an exorcism on a plane.

But the mag is itself a trip. It has some clothed but compelling shots of Jared, and it seems designed to attract the notice of gay men as much as the attention of women.

On p 66 there is a “guy talk” or “Ask the Winchesters” and Sam (Jared) gives a pretty lucid explanation of paralysis of sleep.

Padalecki was named a candidate for the 2000 presidential scholars program his high school graduation year, but pursued an acting career almost immediately. The magazine conveys the idea that filming a season of 20 or so episodes of a show like this is very hard work. I don’t know how much Jared and Jensen make (although I suspect they’re in a position to take advantage of the down stock market, a la Suze Orman).

The link for the show is here. It offers a video, which loads a CW video player requiring ActiveX, which fits nicely and properly into the XPS wide screen (in model 16, it leaves some room on the edges, as it is 1.85:1). Right now the site offers a preview were the WB production team for the show gives a panel discussion of the next season. The video is not embeddable, since it requires a special video player.

Also: Oprah to be nicked for $1 trillion?

By the way, a poet named Damon Lloyd Goffe says he will sue Oprah Winfrey for a trillion (with a “t”) dollars for copyright infringement, for using some of his poetry in her Internet work “Pieces of my Soul”. I think I watched a little of it about a year ago. There is some literal calculation of the amount that sounds like an RIAA suit for P2P –but this is Oprah. Remember, she beat off the Texas cattleman for her comment on mad cow a decade ago (that was a SLAPP suit). Again, “free speech rocks”. The TV Squad story is here. I guess it gets laughed out of court, but Oprah is a convenient mark for frivolous suits with her deep pockets (hint, we need tort reform and “loser pays” to protect us all). I think some of my own “do ask do tell” work has been quoted a few times in some TV shows, but it probably just sets me up to sell myself later.

Attribution link for Wikimedia picture of WB studio in Burbank CA.

I was in the area a couple times in the 1970s.

Friday, August 07, 2009

ABC Nightline on Bolivian lithium "mine" in an Altiplano salt flat: a new boom from electric car demand?


Last night (Thursday Aug 6) ABC Nightline presented a brief report “Lithium Boom in Bolivia”. No, that doesn’t mean lithium as a psychoactive drug; it refers to the enormous need for lithium for future hybrid and electric cars as part of the green revolution, to counter “peak oil” and global warming. ABC provides only a generic link, so I don’t know how long the video will stay, here.

On a huge salt flat on the Altiplano, at 12000 feet (not too far from Lake Titicaca) the Bolivian government is sponsoring an experiment to produce lithium from evaporation from salt ponds. There is even a “salt city” nearby (rather like the salt caverns near Krakow Poland). The report says that if Bolivia, a poor and completely landlocked country, gets this right, it could make Bolivia the “Saudi Arabia” of the green revolution. Bolivia is known for political instability and extreme poverty, in some of the highest cities and communities (outside of Tibet) in the world.

Attribution link for Wikimedia commons map of Bolivia, by Miguel Sevilla-Callejo

Thursday, August 06, 2009

ABC 20-20 presents show on autism, other medical issues Aug. 7; much video is available now


ABC 20/20 on Friday August 7 will present an intriguing segment about an autistic teenage girl who explains what her world is like by typing narratives on a computer. Some of the program is already available on ABC 20/20’s site in videos. She says that her behavior is explained by receiving overwhelming senses.

The news story is “Teen Locked in Autistic Body Finds Inner Voice: Unable to Speak or Connect to the World Until Age 11, Carly Fleishman Types: 'I Am Autistic But That Is Not Who I Am'" web site link here. The ABC story is by Alan B. Goldberg and Lauren Putrino.

The story could be compared to CNN’s 2004 documentary “Autism Is a World” about an autistic girl who goes to college. The main "CNN Presents" link for this show is here. Here is the classroom website tutorial for the CNN show.

Autism is more common in boys than girls. Milder forms of autism (or milder pervasive developmental disorders) are called “Asperger’s Syndrome” which in the very mildest form simply makes the person less communicative socially and sometimes very introverted. Sometimes such persons do very well in artistic or intellectual fields, especially computers, based more on individual work and less on social manipulation and emotional cuing.

The show will also present a boy born with a heart outside his body, with video already available.

There is also a video on five signs of the need for neurological attention. That would be signs of possible impending stroke or aneurysm, or a transient ischemic attack. One interesting symptom could be vertigo, which sometimes is benign and the result of inner ear disturbance.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Discovery APL gives us biology lesson on internal parasites


On Aug. 5, The Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet aired a scary one-hour documentary “The Monsters Inside Me: Living with the Enemy”.

Most parasites (either protozoa or multicellular animals, often primitive worms) do not kill their hosts but are extremely difficult to remove.

The first episode showed a young woman whose brain had been infected with tapeworms from eating undercooked pork or possibly through a more complicated process. Cysts had formed in her brain; aggressive drug treatment seemed to work, but the worms came back and eventually surgery had to drain pressure from her brain.

The second episode showed a Midwestern young man with toxoplasmosis, which he acquired as a boy from farm dirt, in the retina. It destroyed one eye, and then he eventually needed an injection right into the other eye in a last-ditch attempt to prevent blindness. He was HIV negative, but toxoplasmosis is a common opportunistic infection of HIV and often causes deadly encephalitis in people with AIDS. Toxoplasmosis is carried by feral cats transmitted from rats.

The last episode documented a young woman with malaria. The disease causes sudden spiking fevers and can hide from the immune system in the liver. Sometimes people with malaria are encouraged to live in colder climates.

The APL link with more gruesome parasite videos is here.

Thank you, Animal Planet, for a biology lesson. Remember dissecting planaria in high school biology lab? Remember drawing and labeling?

Attribution link for p.d. picture of a tapeworm (Cestoda) in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Universe: Strange Things (History Channel)


The History Channel tonight (Aug. 4) reran a couple of its more provocative “The Universe” offerings.

The first hour was called “Strangest Things”. It started with alcohol clouds in space, enough for billions of “solar flare discos” as I call them in some of my screenplays. They may have been vomited from stars as they formed, and seeded comets which then could seed planets like Earth.

The strangest object might be “pulsar planets”, Earth-to-Moon sized rocky planets near young neutron stars, magnetars which (through going a bit “bald” magnetically) become pulsars in middle age. How they could get there is a mystery.

The documentary went on to examine black holes (old hat), which actually evaporate (like ice on a clear day in the sun) and might explode after evaporation below a critical mass. The show also discussed the formation of momentary mini -black holes, as inside the Hadron Collider.

In a science fiction novel, I’ve proposed the idea that a mini black hole could exist inside an isotope and be used to convey portions of identities of people, enabling other entities to take over and absorb them, in a kind of spiritual contraction. In the fictitious setting, the isotope builds into a virus that causes what becomes recognized as a bizarre retroviral disease. The viral proteins can accommodate certain radioactive atoms (astatine) that produce micro black holes that allow the information imprints of other personalities to be imported.

The film concludes with the discussion of the expanding universe, and the possibility that it could end with “The Big Rip” where all matter, even atoms, is torn apart.

The second hour was about the Milky Way, and it explored the safe position of the solar system on a spiral arm, rather distant in galactic suburbs, two thirds the way out from the center, taking 250 million years to revolve around the center. The film discussed the huge black hole at the center of the Milky Way (100000 light years across) which is still small compared to other galaxies. The Milky Way is part of a galaxy group, as are the two Magellanic Clouds. Were the solar system closer to the center of the galaxy, the night sky would be so bright with stars that it would be like day, and would bombard us with deadly gamma rays.

The expansion of the universe applies only to objects too far apart to be affected by gravity.

The Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy, also a spiral and larger, will merge into one elliptical galaxy in some billions of years.

Related is an episode “Deep Space Threats” reviewed here.

Attribution link for Wikimedia image of Perseid Meteor against the Milky War

Sunday, August 02, 2009

ABC's "Defying Gravity" opens with 2-hour premier


Tonight ABC premiered its new meaty space series “Defying Gravity”, directed by James D. Parriott. Eight astronauts “who want to do it” go through all kinds of indignations (even repeat vasectomies) to qualify for the program. Some of them need a little help in the pool (from Michael Phelps). Believe it or not, one of them can’t swim.

But the concept is romantic – doing a grand tour of many of the planets, almost like a fold-out in a child’s astronomy text. There is the issue of what ultimate purpose is behind all this. There are too many medical coincidences (almost deserving emergency bypass surgery). One could compare the concept to the new Sony Pictures “Moon”, with perhaps a bit of “Solaris.” There’s plenty of esprit de corps here – or call it unit cohesion.

There’s some science, too, a discussion of the bends, and of hyperbaric chambers.
A hint to the premise: “the only natural selection happened in a petri dish.” What picks the teams?

The ABC show link is here and it will prompt you to download and install and ActiveX add-on.

Attribution link for NASA volcano picture on Venus.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

NBC Dateline reports soap-opera-like murder near Chicago ("Dangerous Liasons"); the Rhoni Reuter case


On Friday, May 31, NBC Dateline aired a segment called “Dangerous Liasons” about the slaying near Chicago of pregnant woman Rhoni Reuter. The NBC correspondent was Keith Morrison, and his interview with Wayde Reuter is here.



The episode unfolded like a soap opera (particularly like a sequence out of “Days of our Lives”). Rhoni had dated Chicago Bears Shaun Gayle. It seems that this is a case of “bad women” and the real killer would turn out to be a femme, rather like Kate from “Days” (who tries to frame Dr. Jonas) or even Nicole(not Sami). The police and DA would build a circumstantial case against a jealous suitor, and then set up a sting with a woman wearing a wire at a Denny’s.

Attribution link for photo of Sear Tower (or Willis Tower) on Wikipedia by Daniel Schwen. Somehow this picture reminds me of Singapore.