Sunday, November 29, 2009

NBC "Meet the Press" interviews Rick Warren, then Bill & Melinda Gates


Today (Nov. 29) “NBC Meet the Press” with David Gregory started with an interview of Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church (link).

Warren said “You cannot love without giving” and “it’s a sin to die rich.” But he also said some things that are rather startling: what matters is not how much you give, but how much you have left, compared to what you gave. Giving away time is even more virtuous because if is “giving away you life”. Later he talked about the beginning of his book “Purpose-Driven Life”: “It isn’t about you.”

One then say, well, if you have to sacrific, then you have to accept the idea that you could become dependent and need others to sacrifice. Or is that just "communal interdependence." You could lose the right to pursue the goals chosen by you, and be forced to accept the goals of others, even if you had previously disapproved of those goals. Warren is certainly questioning the way hyper-individualism sees "personal responsibility" and "choice."

Remember, at its annual dinners, HRC used to pass the hat and demand "Give more than you can afford"!

Warren talked about his own circumstances to convince viewers that he practices what he preaches.

Warren also talked about 146 million orphans around the world “growing up without mommies and daddies.”

I agree, there are things a lot more important than “money” for its own sake. But sometimes it is possible that critical psychological parts of someone’s life get expropriated by others, leaving them empty and purposeless – something that the LGBT community knows. Warren said that he can never hate anyone but did refer to the supposed Biblical prohibition against homosexuality.

He did talk about AIDS research but said that so much of AIDS is “behaviorally based”. George Will once said that. Warren also admitted, however, that too much money was spent on California’s Proposition 8.

Warren did say that America’s number one priority should be to get people back to work.

He also said that a “fundamentalist” is someone who has stopped listening.

Gregory then interviewed Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here.

Gates was asked if he still believes in capitalism. Gates thinks we are on a plateau economically, and should not fall further.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"The Unit": military special forces unit anticipates major situations, inside the military and for homeland security


I haven’t watched “The Unit” that often (CBS, with reruns often on UPN; canceled in May 2009 by CBS), David Mamet’s series on an Army SFOD (Special Forces Operational Detachment or “Delta Force”), since 2006; however the series sometimes in dramatic (I wouldn’t even say docudrama) fashion brings up situations that can anticipate the real world.

UPN re-aired an episode Monday in which a man, posing as a teacher, approaches children or family members on an Army base, possibly to threaten reprisals for the actions of their dads. Later we realize he is trying to get information about the unit. Is he a potential predator, terrorist, someone testing security, or one of the government’s own black ops? When you work or serve in this environment, anyone could be collecting information from you or a family member, which puts a lot of breaks on freedom. That concept at least reminds one a bit of what happened at Ft. Hood. There would exist the obvious opportunity to develop a show on the idea that the Army needs to become suspicious of the connections or ideological beliefs of one of its own.

The particular episode envisions a possible attack on a train carrying nuclear materials, perhaps at a compromised overpass. A similar idea had been explored in 2008 (June 24 2008 on disaster movies blog) on the History Channel Mega Disasters series with the idea of a “glow train” leaking in Las Vegas. A distantly related concept had been explored in the 1977 film “The Cassandra Crossing”.

Starring Dennis Hasybert, Regina Taylor, Robert Patrick.

The CBS site for the show is here.

To what extent does the government depend on military services (not “just” the National Guard) for domestic homeland security

Thursday, November 26, 2009

CNN Heroes: 10 Finalists, and Final Winner presented Thanksgivingg Night by Anderson Cooper


The ten CNN Heroes were announced tonight on CNN in a two hour program hosted by Anderson Cooper.

At the end of the show the audience voted for Efron Penaflorida with his Dynamic Teen Company (website) as Hero of the Year.

Jorge Munoz set up a mobile soup kitchen in Queens.

Budi Soehardi adopted 48 orphans in East Timor.

Jordan Thomas reinforced his earlier presentation with the fact that insurance companies typically cover only one artificial limb in the lifetime of a growing child who needs one.

Roy Foster, with his “no man left behind”, showed his efforts to help homeless military veterans. Foster talked about the concept of “watching one another’s back” as part of the military notion of “unit cohesion.”

Doc Hendley reviewed his “wine to water” fundraisers and explained how water is treated as a commercial commodity in sub-Saharan Africa.

One hero of note in music is Derick Tabb, who taught children in New Orleans to play the tuba.

PBS Frontline: "The Card Game": how credit card debt (and greedy companies) helped fuel the 2008 crisis


On Tuesday Nov. 24, PBS Frontline aired a documentary “The Card Game” about how the credit card industry helped contribute to the financial meltdown of last year. The link to view the full program online is here.

The show started with a former financial official at a financial services company Providian, whose basic take is that no matter how government regulates, banks and Wall Street firms will pay big bucks to people who find clever loopholes in the laws. Providian might have acquired the life insurer I worked for in the 1990s (instead of NWNL), in which case I would not have spent six great years in the Twin Cities. Providian had also specialized in military business.

Banks, about twenty years ago, began to offer credit cards to more people, but with the result that people with weaker financial circumstances were penalized more when they fell behind. After the 2008 credit freeze, people found credit limits frozen on all cards, even retroactively. Small businesses found lines of credit frozen to such an extent that payrolls were jeopardized.

Then banks came up with debit cards, with overdraft “privileges”, but with enormous fees that represent something like 24000% annual interest on an accidental overdraft.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PBS "Secrets of the Dead" covers Mumbai survivors from 2008 attack


On Wednesday, November 25, the PBS series “Secrets of the Dead” aired an important episode “Mumbai Massacre” about the 2008 attacks on civilian hotels in Mumbai, India. It is directed and written by Victoria Pitt and has several international corporate sourcesa: Electric Pictures and Furnace for THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG, Screen Australia, ScreenWest Inc., Channel 4 (UK), The History Channel UK and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The main link is here.

The film covered the experiences of many of the victims from different countries. One of the most remarkable observations was the lack of immediate and visible response from Indian authorities, to the point that apartment residents in the area did not realize there was a crisis for some time. In another situation, husband and wife split up so that at least one is likely to survive to raise their kids.

The film characterizes the attackers as rather like zombies, blinded by ideology and lack of personal purpose. The film also places responsibility for the attacks on Pakistan, not on rogue decentralized groups.

Wikipedia attribution link for Mumbai map.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PBS Nova: "What Are Dreams"?


PBS Nova has an interesting documentary about sleep, “What Are Dreams?”, aired Nov. 24.

The documentary explored why we sleep and dream, and why we have dreams in both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM. A subject, Ross, was awakened in both non-REM and REM sleep. The non-REM sleep was one with positive self-concept. But the REM sleep exhibited negative emotions. The Amigdyla in the brain processes fear and difficult emotion. People with clinical depression tend to fall asleep directly into REM.

During REM sleep your body is limp. A cat had surgery disabling the paralysis mechanism, and during REM sleep the cat exhibited hunting and stalking behaviors, so presumably cats dream about hunting and prey.

Another subject’s performance on a virtual ski slope improved because of repeated non-REM dreams.

In REM sleep, memories are not time-compressed, and last much longer. In non-REM sleep the brain categorizes memories, and in REM the brain simulates future possibilities. The dreamer may believe that he really experiences the dream in a kind of parallel universe. You can do whatever you want in a dream without facing the consequences.

But nightmares can warn us of dangers in real life and prepare us. I often dream about car wrecks and am glad to wake up and know that they didn't happen.

My favorite dreams are the impression of being in my own Minneapolis apartment, except that it is on another planet, with the surrounding city circumscribed and within a dome (like Stephen King) or synecdoche.

The Sleep Education Blog has a discussion here.

The PBS link for the show is here.

A dream may have led to the invention of the sewing machine needle.

People can lose the ability to dream after a stroke (and perhaps with Alzheimer's). Damage to the parietal lobe, which correlates our sensory memories, can prevent dreaming. People who can't dream may wake up when they should have REM sleep. (Some people -- me -- can't whistle, too.)

I wondered how the sleep lab electrodes could work on top of scalp hair.

Monday, November 23, 2009

APL: Into the Lion's Den: Getting lions in a pride to accept man as one of them


On Monday November 23 Discovery Animal Planet aired “Into the Lion’s Den”. Canadian zoologist David Salmoni, with filmmaker Michael Hackenberg, visit lions in a pride in northern South Africa. Salmoni first experiments with lions in a zoo in Toronto, even in winter, where male lions will stand between any other animal and a female in estrus.

In the wild, lions have “free will.” But with careful use of body language, including retreating as necessary, Salmoni gradually approaches the pride and gets the lions, even the alpha male, to accept his presence, even close to a kill. Finally the male tolerates his going between him and the pride. (That’s like walking between two officers in the Army.)

Salmoni would connect words ("Big Lion", "backing away") with actual body language, and it seemed as though the lions, especially the dominant male, learned to trust him through this connection. With body language, Salmoni could communicate the concept that he was not prey and was worthy of respect, rather like a (hairless, with clothing) lion himself.

The notion of "lion's den" is figurative in nature, rather than literal as in the Book of Daniel.

I suppose this is as close as man can come to experience “being a cat.”

Here is a similar video from the Associated Press (embed code supplied on YouTube by AP), “African Lions Accept Man As One of Their Own” with Kevin Richardson.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Joseph Gordon-Levitt "makes 'em laugh" with acrobatics on SNL; Al Gore threatens ice water attack


Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted Saturday Night Live on November 21, and started out with a song-and-dance vaudeville, “Make ‘Em Laugh,” where he had to do some real tumbling, backward somersaults without a trampoline. Here, he was a great athlete. In most of the skits, he looked like a 40s character from Warner Brothers; the virility of "(500) Days of Summer” or even “Mysterious Skin” was toned down.

Al Gore made an appearance in the Seth Meyers segment, and threatened to “go crazy” to get Congress to take “Our Choice” about global warming seriously. He threatened to thrown cold water – ice water – on the professional politicians.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

CNN: "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes"


On Saturday, November 21, CNN presented a one-hour documentary film by Anderson Cooper, “Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes” web URL (link). The airing was complete, but was delayed about 15 minutes to analyze the cloture vote on health care reform in the Senate tonight (60-39 pass).

The early part of the film shows Sgt Michael Leahy making a video for his wife, saying “I’m not a good person; I killed someone”. The Army charges four NCO’s with premeditating the murder of four Iraqi detainees and dumping the bodies in a canal.

However, the men say that they did this to protect others in their unit: interrogation rules are so strict and ineffective that insurgents are typically let go. Soldiers have not been trained in criminal investigation procedures as civilian prosecutors and lawyers understand it. And the military concept of unit cohesion (so well bounced around in discussions of “don’t ask don’t tell”) is so marked that men will break normal rules of right and wrong (in a global sense) to protect one another. It’s sort of like seeing people do “wrong” in soap operas to protect “their own families.” So men who were war heroes and who have purple hearts are suddenly turned in to war criminals, as the Army tries to forestall another Abu Ghraib. Yet, the Army could have spent a lot more resources of prosecuting insurgents legally rather than on prosecuting its own to cover up a systemic problem. The report had the probing character of a Dateline episode.

I remember being taught the Geneva Convention in Basic Training back in 1968.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oprah announces the end of her ABC talk show -- two years early


Ryan Seacrest talked about Oprah’s change with Anderson Cooper on AC360 tonight on Thursday Nov. 19. Ryan gives her credit for launching Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and Nate Berkus.

CNN showed a clip of some famous Oprah shows, such as Tom Cruise and his famous jumping jacks in 2005, which some say got "Top Gun" bounced from Paramount (as "Risky Business"). Maybe there was a bit of precrime.

Oprah has been on the air for 25 years.

Ryan Seacrest has said that his “career” is to make pop stars.

Here’s a story on Popeater, “Six Celebs who would replace Oprah”, link. Nobody will “replace” Oprah.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NatGeo: "The Hunt for Samurai Subs"


National Geographic aired an important one-hour documentary Nov. 17 “The Hunt for the Samurai Subs”, (link) directed by Devin Chivvis, concerning at least four advanced Japanese submarines only recently found by extensive Doppler investigations. (The show is part of NatGeo's "Expedition Week" series.) The Japanese could store fighter planes on them (they were like underwater aircraft carriers), and when surfaced, could launch fighters to attack even East Coast cities like Washington and New York with kamikaze planes. Later the Japs turned their attention on the Panama Canal. The attacks never came, but would have if the US and Harry Truman had not ended the War quickly in August 1945 with the atomic bomb. The Japs insisted on sinking the subs before surrendering. We don’t know for sure how much Roosevelt and Truman knew about the subs. So Pearl Harbor was the only major homeland strike (consider the film “Saboteur” however).

Submarines have been around since the War between the States, and Germans had them in both World Wars, and were a major factor in drawing the US into WWI.

The film makes one wonder if Iran or North Korea could conduct submarine warfare. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the US Navy hunted submarines by both sides in the Persian Gulf with Orion planes; Petty Officer Keith Meinhold (later active in the battle to overturn the military gay ban) was active in this effort.

The film also seems timely when the US is debating the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” because submarine service is among the most “intimate” in the military, and has only recently allowed female sailors.

Submarine technology during WWII was more advanced than most people realize, as shown by the USS Torsk exhibit in Baltimore Harbor.
This film may not be “The Seven Samurai” but it would do well if expanded to a theatrical feature.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PBS Nova: "Becoming Human: Last Human Standing": why only homo sapiens made it


On November 17 PBS Nova aired Part 3 of its Evolution series, “Becoming Human: Last Human Standing,” with link here.

The program compares homo sapiens to other hominids, particular Neanderthals, who derived from an ancestor common with us. Some portions of the Neanderthal brain were slightly smaller, and their hunting tools were only good for killing at close range. They were exclusive carnivores, and did not eat vegetables or fish.

Modern humans seemed to gain reproductive advantage after extreme ice ages and droughts, forcing people to live near the coast and improve their technology, including using the cycles of the Moon, to find shellfish. As homo sapiens moved into other areas, they gradually crowded out competing hominids, driving Neanderthals to southern Spain where they finally died out 28000 years ago.

Homo sapiens, having survived crises, represent an evolutionary “bottleneck” which means they have relatively little genetic diversity, which explains why races can interbreed. Extreme environmental stress can cause any group of animals to develop a genetic bottleneck, as only a narrow range of representatives of the animals survive. Human beings also have “culture”, which relates to being able to pass on knowledge to future generations which will build on it.

On other planets, it’s likely that that there would be more genetic diversity among dominant species than on earth, which would lead to even more political problems than we have.

Attribution link for Neanderthal Child reconstruction (p.d.).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bon Jovi appears on Bravo "Inside the Actors Studio"


On Monday Nov. 16 the Bravo TV “Inside the Actors Studio”, hosted by James Lipton, presented Jon Bon Jovi (that is John Francis Bongiovi, born in New Jersey in 1962 and now a rather youthful-looking 45), with his Bon Jovi rock band.

A typical video is here (no embed code offered).

Bongiovi described his process of song-writing, and says that his words and music are about 95% written before starting a recording session. That is, the role of improvisation is not as great as with jazz.

His band presented a number of his songs (like “Wanted Dead or Alive”).

He has an album called “The Circle” which he considers a metaphor for his own personality.

He also discusses his acting career, and his “male swagger.”

He appeared with Jared Padalecki in “Cry_Wolf” in 2005 for Rogue Pictures. In the Bravo episode, the discussed his role as the character Michael in the 1998 indie “No Looking Back” for Gramercy Pictures.

When I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003) I sometimes attended the “Minnesota Talent Actors Forum” (link) which often met in a warehouse on the East Bank.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chris Hansen presents "The Unseen Tapes" for his famous "entrapment" series on MSNBC Dateline


MSNBC and Chris Hansen are airing a followup to their notorious TCAP Dateline series (Wiki link called “Predator Raw: The Unseen Tapes” where Hansen shows more details of some of the encounters.

One of the most troubling of these concerned Rabbi David Kaye, who visited a sting house in August 2005 in Fairfax County, VA. Local police were not involved in this sting as they would be in subsequent stings in California, Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, Texas and Florida. (The Texas sting resulted in the suicide of an assistant prosecutor.) Kaye had been in a position to counsel parents and teens and was supposedly in a job to teach “ethics”. That is why his story is particularly troubling. Over the next nine months the FBI would become involved and he would be indicted and surrender himself in May 2006, and be tried in September, and be sentenced in December, where he wept. The applicable federal satute is 2422 with link here. Jerry Markon’s Washington Post story of the sentencing appears Dec. 2, 2006 here.

The “Unseen Tapes” showed a lot more detail of Kaye’s approach, and how he behaved once Hansen confronted him. NBC’s insistence on airing the incident certainly contributed to his resignation in October and eventually his indictment. Much of the show was too graphic to repeat here.

Visitors may enjoy the take of “Wide Eye Cinema”. Hansen also covers teacher – special education teachers – caught in the stings.

MSNBC’s link from Oct. 28 “The Hansen Files” is here. Hansen really scolds the men: “Why are you here?”

Some people consider this entrapment or abusive journalism, a kind of “precrime” enforcement like in the movie “Minority Report”.

He also shows a man who fakes illness, and another man (whos said he was a schoolbus driver) who shows up in the nude, a man who would get caught twice. He would admit that he knew it was illegal.

There is a blog entry on Chris Hansen’s book on March 17, 2007 on the Book Review blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Former state department analyst tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Afghanistan's war is largely a civil war


On Saturday evening, Nov. 14, Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room on CNN presented a young former state department civilian employee who had worked in Afghanistan and who looked into the camera and told the president that much of the struggle in Afghanistan is a civil war. The United States, he said, should focus on Al Qaeda only. The Taliban is not itself involved in planning attacks, even if it made it easier for Al Qaeda to operate. This fact should be considered in the upcoming decision about troop levels in Afghanistan.

The link for the show is here.

There is a related story about the Taliban in Swat in Pakistan here.

It seems that CNN has suddenly stopped offering embed code on its videos.

Correction: now it is in the "share" section, but getting it to copy is tricky..

Friday, November 13, 2009

ABC Nightline covers 2012 Mayan prophecies; do networks have too many commercials?


Here are a couple of odds and ends. Tonight, NBC Nightly News had a particularly annoying commercial break: after about twenty minutes, five regular commercial spots (including the Toyota Prius – great that it comes as a hybrid but bad that it is involved in the stuck-accelerator problem) and then two NBC show spots, before getting back to news, which actually restarted with a flashback to a sitcom.

ABC Nightline did a spot on 2012 (reviewed today on the disaster movies blog), and presented the frightening idea that in December 2012 we will have gigantic solar flares that will fry our electronics (after penetrating the magnetic field) and throw us into the Dark Ages, as if it were an alien-launched upper atmosphere electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The story, by David Wright and Karson Yu, is “'2012-ers' Look Back in Time and See End of World: By One Reading, Ancient Mayan Calender Says World Will End in Three Years”, link here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

LKL interviews Al Gore in advance of his new book "Our Choice"


Larry King Live, on Thursday November 12, offered an interview with former vice president Al Gore, who discussed his new soon-out book “Our Choice” (Rodale Books), which offers his blueprint for addressing climate change. This book is a sequelt to the illustrated book and Paramount Vantage film "An Inconvenient Truth".

Gore said that the most immoral thing our generation could do is to give its kids and grandkids the “back of its hand.” On the show, he was not very specific about potential individual shared sacrifices.

He was supportive of President Obama’s health care plan. I have always believed that had Gore been president in 2001, he would have been more likely to take action on the warning signs mounting all summer that an attack (9/11) might happen.

Gore has been running a green-energy business but admitted to having engaged in layoffs recently.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lou Dobbs, outspoken independent commentator, to leave CNN immediately


Lou Dobbs, long term controversial and outspoken news commentator on CNN, announced Wednesday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day, that he is leaving CNN immediately. Tonight was his last broadcast. MSNBC ran a story from the New York Times by Brian Stelter and Bill Carter, with link here.

Dobbs, calling himself independent, was outspoken in what he called the recklessness of President George W. Bush, inviting the mortgage meltdown and financial collapse.

I recall Dobbs’s “Moneyline” as far back as 2002, when I would watch it in a technical college cafeteria in Minnesota while waiting for class to start.

Here is the Nov. 10 story “Denying Talk of Terrorism” from Dobbs’s CNN page (Brooke Baldwin reporting on the Fort Hood tragedy).



Here is the link for Lou Dobbs “Independent Nation” website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Liquid Universe" shows Titan, Europa, Jupiter's interior (History Channel series)


The History Channel’s “The Universe” aired a most interesting episode Nov. 10, “Liquid Universe”, about the behavior of liquids on various kinds of planets.

As a whole, liquids are relatively infrequent, we thought. The film uses a flock of sheep as a metaphor for a liquid, when tended by a shepherd. It also uses bump-car rides at amusement parks as an analogy.

After Earth, Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) is the only other known body in the Solar System with both land and “ocean” or “lake” features. Titan has small lakes of methane near its north pole, and a large “great lake” near its south pole. The film shows fascinating impressions of what Titan would look like, a brownish, smoggy world, with Saturn sometimes visible through rare breaks in the clouds, all at minus 280 F. Methane is a poor solvent, and less dense than water, so we could not float in it; but the lack of solvency may actually be good for some kinds of life. The lakes would look very clear, and the rain would fall slowly in big drops. I think Titan would be a good subject for Imax filmmaking in 3-D animation.

The film took an imaginary journey through the atmosphere of Jupiter, down to the liquid hydrogen ocean, and deeper to the metallic hydrogen subocean, which would look bluish if you could see it.

The film explains the huge “ocean” underneath the ice surface of Europa, and says it would be very salty.

The film discusses a planet that may exist around a star 20 light years away, apparently around an M Sar, and likely to keep the same face toward the star. It might be a “water world”, with enormous waves a mile high due to temperature driven winds and a permanent hurricane in the warmest area; the water may be so deep that the intense pressure turns it to solid (“Ice 7”) at high temperatures underneath. A smaller planet at the right distance from an M star would have the same “one face rotation” but maybe more land and the right conditions for life in its ringed temperature regions, and that could lead to animals (or people) with bizarre social patterns indeed. The habitable zone would look like a board game with a “model railroad” setup on one side. (High winds could still be a tremendous problem for inhabitants.)

The film also discusses brown dwarfs, in which liquid and gaseous iron would exist. A rogue brown dwarf could threaten a “solar system.”

The film also discussed neutron stars, which it says could comprise “super fluid” and superdense collapsed matter.

Matter, in pre-atomic particles, may have been “super fluid” before the big bang. There might be fluidity in dark matter, which could relate to other dimensions or parallel universes, maybe even the afterlife.

Attribution link for Wikipedia NASA image of Titan’s lakes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

CBS 60 Minutes: US in grave danger of cyber shutdown; Agassi interview


Tonight, Sunday Nov. 8, CBS 60 Minutes presented a frightening report, “Sabotaging the System”, primarily comprising an interview of former admiral Mile McConnell by Steve Kroft. The story link has web URL here with the title “U.S. Unprepared for Cyber Attacks.”

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Hackers could bring down the electric power grid and keep it crippled for months, he warns. (Some conservative have warned that rogue terrorists could accomplish the same with an EMP attack.) It’s not clear how they could get in from the public Internet, but one problem is that US power companies get so many critical components from overseas, and the hardware is not easily replaced if sabotaged.

The report covered two major blackouts in Brazil (kept secret) in 2005 and 2007. It also covered infiltration of Pentagon systems by rogue flash drives, now banned.

The report says that one of the greatest dangers is not just the looting of individual bank accounts by hackers, but the corruption of the reconciliation system in banking, which must operate in real time immediately.

The report was a “pre 9/11 moment” with respect to cyber terror.

Then Katie Couric interviewed tennis champ Andre Agaassi, with a new memoir (“Open”), who admits now that he grew up “hating tennis” because of his father, and then sunk for a period into crystal meth before making a comeback. The segment shows his physical transformation, which was so dashing at 18, when he was already going bald and wearing a hairpiece. It seems that over the years that as he went down he lost almost all his hair, literally – catching the notice of “The Advocate” at one point.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

ABC Nightline: detailed account of Fort Hood Incident


ABC Nightline, on Friday Nov. 5, covered the Fort Hood incident minute by minute, including descriptions of what Major Nidal Malik Hasan looked like, with facial expressions, during the incident before he was shot down by a civilian policewoman, Sgt. Kimberly Munley, reportedly a mother of two girls. The main ABC story is by Sarah Netter and Alice Maggin, link here. The title is “Fort Hood Hero Kimberly Munley's Gunfight With Major Nidal Malik Hasan: Wounded in Both Legs and Wrist, Sergeant Kept Firing”.

Earlier Friday, both Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360 had covered the incident, with reports that Maj. Hasan was still alive, in military police custody, paralyzed and possibly in a coma. There has been wide discussion elsewhere about his blog posts, and the legal difficulties the government has in pursuing them, given the First Amendment. But apparently Hasan was secretive (despite his blogging) and did not allow people into his home, and sometimes worked on a neighbor’s home computer. Police have seized all of his computer files and other home equipment and possessions to investigate the possibility of other conspirators, but the Army already believes he likely acted alone. Likewise, his service record as a military doctor and psychiatrist was underwhelming, to say the least. The Uniformed Services University of Health Science had been covered in early 2008 in Terry Sanders’s film “Fighting for Life” (movies blog, March 20, 2008).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

CWTV's "Supernatural" explores Multiverses


The Supernatural episode tonight “Changing Channels” went into some interesting conceptual stuff as far as physics is concerned – enough to please Dinesh D’Souza. The Trickster puts Sam and Dean into an alternate universe (using some of the seven “other” dimensions) where they are living inside a few television shows, including a medical drama requiring scrubbing. Sam and Dean find they must live inside the world of these shows to transcend it. That’s an idea that I explored myself in a screenplay called “Baltimore Is Missing” in which the protagonist rides a train that goes astray back into time, and then finds he is a puppet in a model railroad run by an old nemesis. The link is here/

Dean (Jensen Ackles) has said that he no longer trusts Sam (Jared Padalecki), even though in earlier seasons the younger Sam seemed to be the steadier of the two brothers.

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Wikipedia attribution link for Multiverse drawing in public domain

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"V": ABC remakes 1980s miniseries: what happens to V-creatures in a disco?


V” was a mildly controversial miniseries on NBC in 1983 from Kenneth Johnson and Warner Borthers television. This time, ABC gets to do the rerun, with politics brought up to date by 20+ years, directed by Yves Simoneau. We all known by now that “V” stands for both “visitors” and “victory.” Somehow, the concept reminds me of the 1984 potboiler film “Red Dawn.”

It’s pretty sudden, all the earthquakes, as the spaceships hover over major cities on V-Day, hanging in the air rather like those of “Independence Day” or “District 9”. The face of Anna (Morena Baccarin) hangs on the spaceship as an image, and journalist Chad Decker (Everwood’s Scott Wolf) gets an interview with her. (The 1983 version had started with rolling spaceships moving across the American desert southwest.) The website for the new series is this.

When Anna tells Chad that she can’t be asked any questions that would put the visitors in a bad light, Chad has to explain the nature of terrestrial journalism—objectivity. But it’s clear quickly that Anna promises utopia (“universal health care” is a great buzzword, isn’t it?) in exchange for slavery and political subjugation. Already there is a hint of Marxism in the visitors’ system.

There are, of course, “the kids” – Logan Huffman plays Tyler, who gets a ride on an extraterrestrial chopper into the mother ship, inside which there is a kind of synecdoche, a model city, that is rather interesting to look at – all reminding me of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama”. In fact, why not make Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” into a film, starting with a landing of utopian creatures from a bird-world, ready to set up a group mind on Earth.

Well, birds (as dinosaurs) are post-reptilian, and underneath the surface, the V-people, buff as the men may look, are reptilian or lizard-like. At least that’s what I remember from the 80s. Imagine some dirty dancing in a disco, and someone gets too aggressive with the kneading and pulls away not just the hair but the skin, revealing the scales underneath. That’s how I would write this. V-creatures would never survive Halloween in a gay disco. Imagine them as in reverse costumes.

I don’t think that the premise of the series is as intriguing as that of “Flashforward”, but we’ve seen this series before, and the big red “V” is bound to generate interest.

Picture: spaceship model at NASA museum in Chantilly, VA

Monday, November 02, 2009

CBS 60 Minutes shows H1N1 vaccine manufacture in PA


CBS “60 Minutes” gave a tour of the only H1N1 vaccine manufacturing plant in the United States, in Pennsylvania, owned by French company Sanolfi Pasteur. Filmmakers had to don bodysuits and hairnets, and a very young man was supervisor.

The company says it has solved the problem that led to slow vaccine production at first.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

The locations of farms producing eggs for vaccine manufacture is a national security secret.

The segment also showed the recovery of a 15 year old football player from Arkansas who was on a ventilator for 17 days and is only slowly recovering.

Larry King Live, on Monday Nov. 2, presented brief interviews about H1N1 with opposing viewpoints on the vaccine, but also interviewed the parents of a seven year old who died of septic shock. Sanjay Gupta said that deaths in children usually result from complications of staphlycoccal pneumonia, a superbug, resulting in blood poisoning and collapse of circulation. A relapse of a fever that has gone away in a child is a possible warning sign of dangerous bacterial complications.

People over 55 or 60 seem much more resistant, and may have been exposed to a similar virus antigen in the 1940s. Seasonal flu vaccine may boost H1N1 immunity in older people only.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

PBS Globe Trekker shows technical climb in Grand Tetons


The PBS Pilot Productions series “Globe Trekker” presented a particularly interesting segment of America’s best hikes, climbing the second highest peak of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, hosted by Justine Shapiro. There is a Blogger site for climbing in the Grand Tetons here. The Globe Trekker index is here, but I could not find the episode in the index. Here is a Wyoming PBS reference link. What's interesting is that an "average hike" in this very steep range (no foothills) requires some technical skill.

However, the program showed a technical climb the first day, with some ropes and crampons toward the end, to reach a hut at around 11000 feet, which was quite well supplied and packed with people. The host has some altitude sickness the first day but adjusts overnight, and reaches the summit the second day after starting at 5:30 AM. I understand that when people climb Mr. Rainier, they start the climb the second day at 2 AM to beat the thunderstorms.

The episode also showed a horseback ride through the Sangre De Cristo’s with a lot of manual trail work and hut building, and also a glider trip.

Attribution link for Wikipedia link for Grand Tetons Wide Angle Picture.


I visited Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons area in May 1981.