Wednesday, December 29, 2010

PBS Frontline" Flying Cheap": the perils of regional airlines

The PBS Frontline documentary “Flying Cheap” first aired on Feb. 2, 2010, and covers the unsteady safety reputation of “regional carriers”.

While some low-cost carriers like Southwest became successful quickly and became national (I used Southwest all the time when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, and I liked its flying out of Love Field), others developed a reputation for paying pilots poorly (non-union), who sometimes stayed in substandard “dorms” in other cities, many to a room, in military-style bunks.  They were paid "piece work" and had incentives to fly in bad weather. They were paid only for air time, not elapsed duty time. 

The film focuses particularly on the ValuJet crash in 1996 and the Continental Colgan crash near Buffalo in 2009.

I remember in 1986 flying from Newark airport to Dulles on “People’s Express”, an airline covered by John Stossel where pilots had to take turns as flight attendants. They were so “cheap” that they didn’t interline and use automated tickets. Travel agents called them “Your Peoples”.

The main link is here. There is a direct link for watching the entire 56 minute film. It starts with “The Harrowing Crash of Continental 3407.”

The program re-aired on Nov. 29, 2011, the same day AMR, parent of America Airlines, announced Chapter 11.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

PBS Nova: "Secrets Beneath the Ice" of Antarctica

On Tuesday Dec. 28, PBS Nova premiered the one hour film “Secrets Beneath the Ice”, a documentary about modern research in Antarctica, drilling deep beneath the ice in many places, trying to predict Antarctica’s future climate and threat of melting with rising sea levels.

The scientists explore various areas including the dry valleys, almost devoid of life. It’s very hard on men to live there a long time physically, most of all to camp out.

Some parts of Antarctica are layered into levels of ice and ash or rock, somewhat like some other moons in our solar system (Titan comes to mind).

The ice sheets in Antarctica are divided into East and West by a central range, with the East ten times as large. But even the East has melted in the past. 15 million years ago the continent was mild and free of ice, covered with forests, and there was little ice on the planet anywhere.

The film ends with dire warnings of what the world faces in the ice caps melt a lot again.

Alan Alda narrates.

The basic link for the program is here.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Antarctic bedrock, here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

CNN: "The Two Mary's"

On Christmas Day CNN presented a 2004 film “The Two Marys” about the Virgin Mary and then about Mary Magdalene, narrated by Sigourney Weaver, with this transcript.  She had guest narrators including Leslie Hazleton (“Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother”) and Karen King, from Harvard Divinity School. The transcript for the film is here. It's a good film to review on Boxing Day.
There have been sermons about what it must have been like for Joseph, who was the perfect husband to raise what amounts to “someone else’s son” as a father.

The film shifted toward Mary Magdalene, considered a “demon” at one time for her adultery, ultimately another heroine.

Of course we all know the theory that Jesus got married and had children (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, etc., book reviews, April 16, 2006). Of course, He had no need for “vicarious immortality”. In fact, the rumors around Magdalene bring up moral debates on whether reproduction ought to be viewed as an “obligation”.

Dr. Mark Miravalle of the Fransciscan Friars discusses Immaculate Conception in this YouTube video,.  He also talks about "two Mary's".

There is a related film, “The Mystery of Jesus” on CNN, reviewed here Dec. 23, 2007.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

History Channel continues "Ancient Aliens" with "Alien Devastation": a meandering documentary; what about the Rosicrucians?

The History Channel “Ancient Aliens” series continued Dec. 23 with “Alien Devastation” from Prometheus Films.

The one hour documentary rambled somewhat as it suggested that many of the critical points in human evolution were modulated by extraterrestrials, who could have used global cataclysms to weed out the species (with “genetic bottlenecks”) and lead it to where it is today.

There were suggestions that great innovators, going back to Leonardo Da Vinci with his circular car, might have been inspired by alien contact. (Another possibility was Telsa with the “death ray”.) William Bramley, author of “Gods of Eden”, spoke frequently.

The show depicted the Mayan ruins in Tacopalta, Mexico, talking about the beginning of the Mayan Calendar on Aug. 11, 3114 BC, to end Dec. 21, 2012.

There is one theory that the aliens come from an undiscovered 12th planet in the Solar System, but anything beyond Pluto would be too cold for anything like a civilization as we understand it to have evolved. Since many other dwarf planets have been found beyond Pluto, this sounds totally off the wall. Maybe it’s conceivable they could have come from Titan.

The film mentioned the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC), to which I belonged in New York City in the 1970s. I even attended the ritual “feast” in a hotel on March 21, 1977. I visited the museum in San Jose in 1976. See my books blog April 7, 2007 for a review of a book by H. Spencer Lewis. Back in the 1970s there was another new age book that spoke of "The Invisible Empire of the Rosicrucians".  There was a lot circulated then anout the Great White Brotherhood and Lemuria (I visited Mt. Shasta in 1978).
KMVT has a half-hour You Tube video about the Rosicrucian Order.

Second picture: Christmas Eve; the all blue lights look more impressive in person.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

PBS POV: "Presumed Guilty": looks at the Mexican justice system

On December 23, WHUT (Howard University Television) on PBS aired “Presumed Guilty” (“Presunto Culpable”), directed by Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete and “Lawyers with Cameras”, as part of PBS’s POV (“Point of View”) and “Behind the Lens” series of documentary films. It’s easy to imagine the work of these filmmakers (in idiomatic Spanish, with subtitles) in AFI’s Silverdocs.

The film covers a typical case of “justice” in Mexico. Street vendoe Antonio Zuniga is pulled off the streets and charges with a murder of Juan Reyes with no physical evidence. 95% of these cases result in convictions and 92% have no direct evidence.

Much of the film is about a retrial which occurred after the filmmakers were contacted based on the results of an earlier film (“El Tunel”) and found a technicality (the defense lawyer had a forged license). But the system is so stacked with corrupt incentives fed by a social and political hierarchy that the end result is another conviction.

The victim’s family visits him and accuses the defendant of lying and say they will blame the filmmakers if anything else “happens.” There is also a scene where a translator works to go between Spanish and not English, but apparently a native American Mayan language.

The film shows interesting flashbacks of Tono’s break dancing and rap music making.

The detailed PBS film description here is worth reading closely.
The film had first aired on July 27, 2010.

PBS has a YouTube trailer:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

AC360 airs Diane Sawyer interview where US Intelligence Director Clapper is caught unbriefed

James R. Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, was caught flatfooted when, accompanies by , Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, and John Brennan, he was asked by ABC’s Diane Sawyer about the arrests that had happened in Britain about twelve hours earlier. He pulled a “Jan Brewer” senior moment.

Sanjay Gupta covered the incident on AC360 tonight, with link here.  He, like Anderson Cooper, calls this "keeping them honest", a trademarkable phrase.

Toby Harnden has a similar story in the London Daily Telegraph (website url) here.

Here’s Diane Sawyer’s own account on ABC.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CNN's "A Soldier's Story" airs the same day that "don't ask don't tell" is repealed (a coincidence?)

On Dec, 18 and 19, CNN airs another of its special documentaries, “A Soldier’s Story”, narrated by Jason Carroll. The link is here.

The airing is ironic, occurring on the same day that the US Senate repealed the 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law. But the film actually focused on the impact of military service on families.

Latricia Rose, a married mother of a two year old, leaves her Columbus GA home at 4:30 AM one morning for basic. Her husband winds up having grandmother care for the baby. The Army gives her an “unclassified discharge” with right to return during Basic, because of the home situation. For a few days, she drills without a rifle.

Will McClain, from Rosamond, CA starts Basic at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, loses weight, has to go through the gas chamber training, and winds up deployed in Afghanistan as a combat engineer.

Randy Shorter leaves behind a family as he prepares for a third tour of combat duty, this time in Afghanistan. He is shown in a pacification meeting with tribal leaders at the end.

Here is one of many YouTube videos about Army Basic Training at Fort, Jackson, S.C., where I had my Basic in 1968. It still looks familiar, with Tank Hill.

Friday, December 17, 2010

ABC 20-20 "Be the Change: Save a Life"

On Friday Dec. 17, ABC 20/20 presented a special “Be the Change: Save a Life” with several volunteer efforts overseas.

Some graduate students at Stanford we assigned the task of designing a low-cost incubator, as very small premature babies cannot maintain body temperature.

Note: overincubation can cause eye damage.

A 32-year old New Yorker gave up the night life and finance to go to Africa to work on water projects; the show presented digging wells in the Central African Republic. The recent CNN Heroes program also presented water projects.

Another project involved bringing anti-HIV medications to remote African areas on horseback and camels, and still another project addressed AIDS in Leshotho.

Teenager Zach Hunter wrote a book “Be the Change” which I reviewed on my books blog May 22, 2007.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Larry King Live closes out a quarter-century reign

For his last show on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010, Larry King wore red suspenders and a red tie.

Cohosting were Bill Mayer and Ryan Seacrest. Arnold Schwarzengeer announced Lrry King Day.

“As you can tell, this is completely rehearsed”, Larry said.

Then Regis Philbin, Donald Trump and Suze Orman appeared.

Then Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams, and Barbara Walters (who has been on the air for 21 years compared to LK’s 25). Kate Couric read a poem that was a take-off on “Twas the night before Christmas”. They spoke of” Tammy Faye’s eyes” and “Ted Haggard’s regret.”

Then came Bubba Bill Clinton, from Little Rock, AK. Larry said that both he and Bill belonged to the Zipper Club (like David Letterman). That’s not compatible with keeping chest hair.

At the end, Dr. Phil appeared.

King says he will do specials on CNN. “You won’t see me go away, but you won’t see me on this set anymore. Thank you, instead of good bye, and so long.”

History Channel presents 4-hour documentary "The Third Reich": why did the German people fall for it?

On Dec. 14 and 15, the History Channel presented the four hour documentary film, “The Third Reich: The Rise, The Fall”, in two parts.

The most interesting part of the film was the first section, which showed how the German people were gradually seduced by Nazi ideology in the early 1930s. The film tended to present the problem as bigger than that what could be caused by one previously obscure and misfit man, Adolf Hitler.

National Socialism (which morphed into fascism) presented the people with a belief that they were somehow “chosen” and that collectively they could be better off, having jobs and prosperity, if they obeyed all the “rules”. And for some number years they indeed did, as the home movies taken both by Germans and American tourists (never shown before) demonstrated. The corporate state provided jobs, infrastructure, and even leisure. Ordinary Gentile Germans did not at first understand that their “prosperity” would be achieved at the expense of other peoples, most of all the Jews. But in time, a “herd mentality” developed. Not only was it forbidden to protest or speak out; ordinary Gentiles were manipulated into believing that they must support the persecutions.

The British and Americans started leafleting from the air in some areas, warning German civilians that the Germans would eventually lose the War. World War II showed how effective group propaganda could be, which today is much less the case because we have an Internet and other personal media. After the Allies (both the Soviets and the West) started moving in on Germany, ordinary people began to realize they would be personally blamed for what had happened, a notion (“group karma”) often seen in left wing ideology since the 1950s. Indeed, the hardships would be severe for many of them for several years after the war.

The "shared vision ideology", which, in a family setting, would expect families to protect their most vulnerable members locally, did not do so in 1930s Germany, which was more like ancient Sparta in that respect.

So the whole story of what happened to the German people shows how two-faced the idea of “shared vision” (often presented today by the religious right in the “natural family” movement) can become.

The History Channel offers a related DVD “Saddam and the Third Reich” which I have not seen yet but will check on, here.
Docmate offers a similar 15-part film on YouTube:

Wikipedia attribution link for Second World War Europe here

Also, Wikipeida picture of Berlin Reichstag with inscription "Dem Deutschen Volke" ("to the German People") here. I saw it in May 1999.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PBS Frontline: "Close to Home": The recession and unemployment among New Yorkers, Floridians, especially those over 50

The PBS Frontline one hour documentary “Close to Home”, written and directed by Okra Bikel, examined the hardship caused by the Great Recession on some New Yorkers on the Upper East Side (visiting a hair salon near E 83rd St and Park), and in Florida.

One man in Florida (who had once been a ballet star) described losing his wife to cancer, and his home to foreclosure a week later, as his belongings were put in the street. Banks were not that interesting in forbearance programs, as many people ran into catch-22’s.

A former owner of the Grind coffee shop in Sunnyside, Queens described the gradual shrinking of his neighborhood business.

The film also described a jobs club in Connecticut. Participants described the pressure of having to tow the line in “playing the game” of contacting hundreds of companies on the web in looking for a job. They had to act loyal. The show did not get into “online reputation” and job searching but it probably should have. The saga of a Human Resources executive who was “laid off” and asked to clean out in 10 minutes after 25 years with the company was shown. Most of the people in the jobs club were over 50.

I recall back in 1987 that PBS aired a show about a marketing executive who gets fired right after Labor Day in 1984, and then over a year grooms himself to be another executive’s replacement. When he was fired, he was told he didn’t have enough “marketing expertise.” That particular show had been produced with the drama department at the College of William and Mary.

The website for the documentary is here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

PBS Nova: "Hunting the Hidden Dimension", about fractals

On December 14, 2010, PBS Nova reaired a program “Hunting the Hidden Dimension” about fractals (from 10/28/2008).

The focus of the program was the work of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, whom IBM hired to solve intractable problems in communications. Mandelbrot modeled the idea of “self-similarity”, which is a common technique in nature, leading to patterns repeated recursively in smaller scales. The mathematics enabled a new technique for movie animation, as in “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan”.

One of the most interesting applications was the length of a coastline. It’s possible to design a closed curve called the Koch Curve whose limit circumference is infinite (or unbounded). Mandelbrot considered fractals as like partial "dimensions", more or less in line with the way string theory suggests other dimensions, which might prove to give portals to other universes.

In complex variables, the set of numbers collecting all “Julia sets” was the famous Mandelbrot set.

The program went on to discuss how fractals are used to design cell phone antennae.

The film examined the relationship between the size of an organism and its energy use. Large organisms are more efficient, following the relationship of “energy” correlates to “mass” to the (3/4) power. This is useful in studying carbon absorption of rain forests, and would be useful in controlling carbon emissions. Loosely, it could suggest that taller people have a biological advantage over shorter people over time.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Wikipedia attribution link for Mandelbrot set picture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Larry King Live, near the end of his reign, takes up Middle East Peace Talks

Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, and Ehud Barak, deputy Prime Minister of Israel, appeared on Larry King Live on Sunday Dec. 12, to present their idea of peace talks, which I recall led to a climax point in 1978 and Begin and Sadat met with Jimmy Carter at Camp David. How much has changed since then?

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also appeared on the program.

The broadcast is “penultimate”, as the end of Larry King as a talk show how on CNN approaches, at his own desire.

Larry King has often discussed the fact that he had left artery coronary bypass back in 1987. He has generally been viewed as a liberal talk show host.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CNN: Norwegian journalist lives with the Taliban, survives being a hostage

On Saturday and Sunday night Dec. 11 and 12, CNN presents Norwegian filmmaker Paul Refsdal 45 minute documentary “Taliban”. Refsdal lived with the Taliban for 30 days, and (rather like a zoologist befriending the alpha male lion of a pride to film it), received “protection” from the leader Omar as a “guest.” Anderson Cooper narrates.

The area was a rugged area NE of Kabul near the Pakistan border.

Refsdal believes that the Taliban will have to be part of any political solution for Afghanistan.

The filmmaker, now bald and in his 50s, had visited the mujhadeen in the 1980s.

Much of the Taliban’s ammunition is old.

Their entertainment is singing chant-like religious songs that they compose, as if real musicians (or “good composers” – see my plays blog Dec 11). They have no electronics with them.

After the Taliban unit endures a US Special Forces attack, Omar starts to see Refsdal as a spy, and threatens him with beheading, but then changes to ransom and forced conversion to Islam. There are complicated contacts with other Al Qaeda units, but eventually Refsdal is freed because killing journalists could look bad.

The film, while shorter, has some of the flavor of Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo”, reviewed on the Movies blog July 10, 2010.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bon Jovi talks about volunteering at restaurant; AC360 keeps 'em honest on DADT

CNN News programming tonight included a couple of items of special interest.

Jon Bon Jovi appeared on Larry King Live and discussed a restaurant in which there is no price menu, but where those who cannot pay come back and volunteer to work. (Link )

But Anderson Cooper on AC360 “kept them honest” by reporting the failure cloture vote on “don’t ask don’t tell”. The vote was 57-40, and two Republican Senators who said they supported repeal voted against it for “political reasons.” AC360 reported that a separate repeal bill (apart from defense authorization) may be introduced immediately in the House to pass this lame duck session. One speaker said that President Obama still has the effective authority to implement stop-loss

Here’s AC360’s live chat. Anderson says he's not allowed to take sides on "policy issues."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"You Can Afford College" on Maryland Public Television

On December 9, Maryland Public Television aired a special “You Can Afford College” with hosts Yolanda Vasquez and Mario Armstrong, and Michelle Brown from US Department of Education. The basic link is (website url) here.  The Twitter ID is “AffordcollegeMPT”. The show was sponsored in part by USAFunds.

The show has a phone bank (1-800-222-1292) of people answering questions on college financial aid, rather than requesting donations to PBS.

The show discussed FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid, (website url) link . Paper forms have been replaced entirely by online submission.

An application will result in a calculation of the student’s “need”, after subtracting an amount based on family income and size.

Like health care costs, college education costs are running away from ordinary Americans, resulting often in enormous debts for young adults.  When I started at George Washington University in 1962, one semester's tuition for a full time student was about $480.  By 1966, when I graduated, it was about $870.  That sounds like a Southwest Airlines Peanuts Fare now.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

CNN airs documentaries on John Lennon

CNN aired the effective one hour documentary “Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder” about the shooting of the Beatles Fan outside his apartment building (the Dakota) in New York City in December 1980, by schizophrenic Mark David Chapman, now serving up to a life sentence at Attica in solitary confinement, but allowed “conjugal visits”. Chapman had worked in Hawaii as a guard that fall but had, all his life, seen “little people” fighting for attention in his head.

Part of the documentary presented Lennon’s difficulties in fathering a child and his job in being a parent when he finally did.

A friend that I had made in New York my last year in 1978 did visit the site very shortly after the incident happened in 1980. I would see that friend in November of 1982 again before flying to London. All of this comes back to me now.

Picture: A woodcut by NYC artist Robert Adsit, 1980.

Update: Dec, 8, 2015

Today, CNN aired an updated version of this film on the 35th anniversary of Lennon's death, retitled "Killing John Lennon". Chapman reported feeling he would inherit the fame of the celebrity that he shot, very much following (or anticipating) the delusion of James Holmes in Colorado in 2012. Mental illness?

Friday, December 03, 2010

History Channel: "UFO's and the White House": Did Cheney indirectly "tell"? Consequences?

On Thursday, December 2, the History Channel aired a one hour documentary “UFOs and the White House”.

The most challenging incident in the documentary occurs near the end. A journalist calls a talk show interviewing former Vice President Dick Cheney and asks about the “truth” behind government knowledge of UFOs and contact with extraterrestrials. Cheney says “Well, if I had such information it would be classified and I couldn’t talk about it.” That is, he doesn’t deny it.

There is a natural inclination to think that most incoming presidents and administrations would believe they could disclose anything like this to the American people if they chose. Why not? Maybe there is information that we would be destroyed, say by an alien EMP (high altitude electromagnetic pulse) attack first if we did.

Now if a president disclosed such information, it would take at least 20 years for the signal to the nearest solar system having a reasonable chance of an advanced civilization (that’s M-star Gliese), and maybe a century for it to return, so that would be dooming generations 100+ years down the road. Or maybe the aliens have an outpost in our Solar System (such as Titan, the largest moon of Saturn), a little more than one light hour away. Or maybe, as in Clive Barker’s novel “Imajica,” the aliens come from parallel universes instantaneously and can look more or less like us.

The rest of the movie covered some well known incidents, starting with a supposed sighting on the West Coast in 1942 (this could have inspired the 1944 alien crash in the NBC series “The Event”), and then Roswell in 1947, and then a blitz over DC in 1952, as well as some sort of crash in the Laurel Mountains near Kecksburg, PA in 1965 (picture above).

Bill Clinton said, at least 8 times, that young workers have a better chance of seeing a UFO than collecting their full social security benefits in the future.

There was a “scare” at the White House from a UFO in 2005, according to the film.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

History Channel: "The President's Book of Secrets"; "Secret Access: Air Force One"

On Wednesday December 1, the History Channel broadcast two films about the secret lives of presidents.

At 8 PM EST it showed “Secret Access: Air Force One” documented the enormous preparations for a presidential trip by Air Force One to Africa, including maintaining security, the office and living space on the plane, and the food preparation, and even safeguarding the fuel supply. This was a one hour film.

At 9 PM it showed “The President’s Book of Secrets” talks about classified information that any president learns about upon taking office, and speculates that some of it is in a single copy of a “book” (not a blog!). Possible contents could include previous contact with extraterrestrials at Roswell or holding them in Area 51 (as in the NBC show “The Event”). There are questions as to whether there is a cabal (like Yale’s “Skull and Bones”) that actually keeps some secrets from the president and keeps an agenda going, The show. The show also depicted the escape routes and preparedness for White House staff, and it took up the president’s “nuclear football”.

Here’s a USA Today article from May 2005 on the Nuclear Football

Here’s a YouTube video from RussiaToday on how close we came to nuclear annihilation in 1962.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

PBS Nova: "Quest for King Solomon's Mines"

On Tuesday Nov. 23, PBS Nova aired a one hour film “Quest for King Solomon’s Mines”, link here.  The film was made by National Geographic.

The focus of the program was the ruins of the copper mines in the Dead Sea area. The use of copper marked the beginning of the “bronze age”. It appears that ancient copper mines were shantytowns in which slaves lived, and they were surrounded by slag heaps, somewhat like third world mining today.

Archeological (and radiological) evidence does support the idea that the mines were established around 1000 BC. The infrastructure would have required a kingdom and political structure. Egyptian scarebs are found in the area, but many of the great empires, including the Egyptians, had broken down before this, leaving new kingdoms, including Israel’s and Elom to replace them. There has been controversy over whether King Solomon, son of David, really was as powerful as the Bible suggests, but archeology associated with the mines supports the idea.

You can watch the show online, although PBS appreciates your support in buying a DVD (after all, it’s non-profit and costs money to make these).

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA Dead Sea photo

Monday, November 29, 2010

NBC: "The Event": Fall Finale: We will all be changed

Well, we know what the aliens have planned for us on “The Event”. (Notice that the musical signature resembles that of “Heroes”?) It’s not quite clear whether it is Sofia’s or Thomas’s doing. But tonight, in the “Fall Finale,” Episode 10 ("Everything Will Change"), Leila (Sarah Roemer) finds out that she is indeed “one of them” by comparing the time lapse in two photos 60 years apart, found in the basement of a mental institution where Samantha had been held. It’s pretty clear that Sean will soon find out that he is one of them, too. The New Order of things will be very good for him.  

The episode crosses over to “Flash Forward” after all – the phone towers in Somalia become a missile silo in some tribal nation, and Thomas’s company has built the missile to launch a satellite to communicate home (it’s not a warhead).

So what’s the plan? It must be to interbreed and change the whole human race to “them”. People will have fewer kids and live for centuries, but at least they will work for centuries too and not need social security. Is that so bad?

Try the “Methuselah Foundation” here.
Watch the 41-year-old Teenager share his top anti-aging tips, without being extraterrestrial.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CNBC offers shorter documentary on marijuana controversies

On Sunday Nov. 28, CNBC aired the one hour documentary “Marijuana, Inc. Inside America’s Pot Industry”, video link (website url) here. (No embed offered).

The documentary was perhaps a little less positive than the earlier 2-hour documentary on the history channel, as it documented crime in the California producing fields, stealing the crop itself or cash. A sheriff decried the industry, but the film said that Mendocino County has so much that law enforcemtn can barely make a dent.

California Proposition 19 (which would have made some non-medical use legal, but which could not override federal law) was defeated Nov. 2, link here.

Back in the 1990s ABC 20-20 had documented ranchers in Montana growing it in secret greenhouses to pay off farm debts, with the banks encouraging it.

Back in 1972, George McGovern had warned that radical proposals like gay marriage and legalization of marijuama would "drive the Democrats to defeat".

Wikipedia attribution link for 1935 propaganda poster.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hallmark switches films, "Night Before the Night Before Christmas"

I was expecting to record Hallmark’s “A Family Thanksgiving” last night, but when I played the movie, it was “The Night Before the Night Before Christmas”, directed by James Orr. It started with someone landing on a house’s roof and becoming, well, Santa Claus. There’s plenty of stuff about family being more important than work and about “saving Christmas” and plenty of various sized other characters.

But “Family Thanksgiving” purported to have a more interesting premise. A career female lawyer goes through a portal to an alternate universe where she is a wife and mother and discovers the importance of family. Sounds like something from “The Natural Family” crowd.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anderson Cooper hosts 2010 CNN Heroes

On Thanksgiving night, Anderson Cooper hosted CNN’s “2010 CNN Heroes: All Star Tribute” with Anderson Cooper hosting.

There was an extensive tribute to the Chilean miners as the show opened. But the Hero of the Year is Anuradha Koirala, She was introduced by Demi Moore, to honor her work in freeing women from sex slavery, also an aim of the Demi and Ashton Foundation. (Ashton’s latest related tweet seems to be a link to a children’s hosptal project here and GQ named him one of the year’s “gentlemen” with regard to education projects.)

By the way, Ashton had a curt tweet “Could it be that it's not about having the answers but rather asking the right questions?” there tonight, and curiously Twitter classified Demi Moore as “similar to me”. Not sure how it makes that detrmination.

Another hero was honored for disabling mines he had been forced to hide.

The best link describing all the heroes is the main story here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

PBS Frontline covers end-of-life decisions, given runaway medical technology

On Tuesday Nov. 23, PBS Frontline aired the 54 minute film “Facing Death” about the extremes to which modern medicine can go to forestall end of life. The video link is here.

The show made the point that ICU’s used to keep people only for a while until they got better, but now many people’s lives end in intensive care after long sequences of procedures to prolong life. The program talks about "broken survivors" of intensive care, and "prolonged expectations."

And medicine has advanced into “science fiction” where it can keep people in suspended animation.

The documentary presented a few patients with a history of multiple bone marrow transplants or organ transplants. Multiple myeloma was mentioned.

The program mentioned hospice, but it did not cover eldercare where a person declines steadily. Other PBS shows have covered this. It’s apparent that some elders may live much longer with extended family around them than in even well designed CCRC’s or apartments, a social issue we have not confronted yet.

Jerome Groopman appears.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ABC's "Dancing with the Stars": Season XI, Finale

OK, here’s ABC’s most compact source on the finale of “Dancing with the Stars”  (11th Season)tonight, link. It's the most watched show in America.

We all heard about the unwanted attention from extraterrestrials that Bristol Palin attracted (call it the Gliese Effect), and it might have been a media hoax.

Of all the finalists, Derek Hough (“Team Baby Derek”) is the most “stereotyped”. The dirty dancing is Oh, so familiar to afficiandos of gay discos, which will no doubt make “derivate work” drag shows based on DWTS, needing real men for half-lives.

Now the voting and judging is pretty complicated, more so than was American Idol or even the filmmakers contest on Fox, “On the Lot” in 2007.

I remember the Singles Social Club in Arlington in the fall of 1971, with the silly rhumba, Virginia Reel, etc., and the offer of dancing lessons by a “cigarette-smoking man” for $80.

ABC says “Skating with the Stars” will start next Monday, Nov. 29.

Final results: Third Place: Bristol and Mark (sorry!)  Bristol drove to LA in her truck, the MC says.
First: Jennifer and Derek.
I wonder how Tim Lincecum would have done!

Update: Nov 24:

The contestants flew overnight to New York (by private jet, probably) for an ABC GMA "after party".

Monday, November 22, 2010

"The Event" may be related to the aliens' lift-off

Although “The Event” was weak last week, on Nov. 22 it got interesting, as Sofia gets to the “Device” which supposedly opens up the worm hole so they can go home. Sofia says they don’t hurt indigenous populations, but it looks like some enormous explosion happens when they use it. Is that “The Event”? (note the backwards E). A lot of Sofia's subjects don't want to go home. And the aliens have an interesting social discipline process called "ostracizing" as did ancient Athens.

It looks like the Vice President is One of Them, though he doesn’t deserve to be.

Sean has recovered from one gunshot wound (the girl friend kidnaps a hospital intern to fix the wound), so he’s not impervious. He’s more like James Franco in 127 Hours. Seriously, a real-life Sean would be sought by the military for Special Forces. He is just that good at everything. So now they go on a foot chase through a cornfield near the Oklahoma Ozarks (note how quickly Sean gets from Texas to DC back to OK) that reminds me of Shymalan’s “Signs”.

There’s a place in my novel where one of my characters gets a traffic ticket in Oklahoma (I got a “courtesy warning ‘myself back in 2005 [74 in a 65 zone] near the Quartz Mountains) on his way to carry secrets to “The Academy” in Texas. Sounds like a cross to “The Event”.

My own life has taken on a supernatural aspect in recent times, won’t get into it. But I will say that thoughts create attractions and change things, in a way far more subtle than public blogs or Facebook. “The Secret” is true; the law of Attraction means that you can induce others to draw on Dark Energy, I think. It must be good for something. So I suspect Sofia’s machine draws on Dark Energy, too.

The aliens are looking for rare earth metals and heavy metals, so if they came from a parallel universe, it isn’t “weakless”. But it sounds like it’s something like that: your consciousness can cross universes even if ordinary matter and energy can’t. They probably have different bodies back home.

I wouldn’t count of Gliese 581 G to be the source of the aliens. It may not exist, and a planet where life is confined to a “terminator ring” wouldn’t offer much opportunity – unless it had been settled from somewhere else.

The Fall Finale happens on Nov. 29. They say the West Coast is at risk. Seriously, I wish they would cross back to “Fast Forward” and explain better the towers in Somalia.

After all, “there IS going to be another blackout.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Prince Charles's "Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World" airs on NBC; has theatrical distribution

Tonight, NBC Dateline presented two segments on Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, now 60, with Brian Williams conducting an interview at a castle (“The Castle of May”, rather like the “Tower of Ned” on Titan in one of my screenplays!) in the north of Scotland that had belonged to the Queen Mother. The interview was called “The Man Who Will Be King”. He has a castle and organic farm north of London.

The Prince talked about sustainability and “natural capital”, which he says needs to be fed into a macroeconomic model of the world.

The discussed his sons’ military service, especially Harry, who may go back to Afghanistan.

When Charles becomes King and is in a “different situation”, there is a concern as to whether Britain’s “unwritten constitution” will allow him to pursue political issues, which in his case is his environmental activism. To do so would change the nature of the Monarchy. As King, can he stay on the path of Al Gore and make documentary eco-movies?

In 1990 Charles had made a film “Earth in Balance: A Personal View of the Environment”

His new film is “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at our World”, directed by Stuart Sender. The website for the film is here. The film belongs to NBC Universal and Balcony Releasing (aka Strand?) for later theatrical showing.

It takes up the subject of organic farming and not using fertilizers, which require fossil fuels.

“Nature is free; it just takes longer”.

Charles visits a village in central India, in an area where farmers in debt to buy modern pesticides and equipment commit suicide when crops fail. He presented a community organized around organic farming.

Later he visits the largest remaining temperate rain forest in the World, in British Columbia.

Charles says that his approach will “start a movement.” The tone of the film is uplifting (sort of the way Bjorn Lomborg’s “Cool It” is) instead of scary (like Al Gore’s).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PBS Frontline covers controversy over (no) martial law in New Orleans after Katrina; conduct of N.O. Police Department

On Tuesday PBS Frontline (WETA) reran an episode that had first premiered on Aug. 25, 2010, “Law and Disorder in New Orleans”, about the conduct of the New Orleans Police Department after Hurricane Katrina.

There was talk of martial law, and whether police officers had the right to use deadly force against looters, especially eleven . Governor Blanco denies having declared martial law and says she had no authority to do so under Louisiana law. However there are many reports that police believed they had martial law authority (such as with Matthew MacDonald’s desk), from Frontline correspondent Thompson. And Mayor Nagin apparently made an “informal declaration” of martial law on Aug. 31, 2005.

The film made it appear as if the NOPD had hired a lot of criminals. 

Propublica has a link that discusses the NOPD issue here.

In 2006, and advocacy group reported on REX 84, or “readiness exercise 84” which reportedly would have given the government wider authorities to detail civilians during catastrophes, link here.
Hawaii was under martial law for part of WWII. I recall learning about the concept in eight grade social studies, and it is covered in the 1950 World Book Encyclopedia as if it were a real possibility.

Picture: Personal trip to NO in Feb. 2006.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PBS Nova: "Secrets of Stonehenge"

PBS Nova on Nov. 16 aired the one hour “Secrets of Stonehenge”, including a presentation of the nearby “Blue Stonehenge.”

The site for the documentary is here.

The film explained the origin or the stones or sarcens (from Wales), and reproduced an experiment how ancient peoples could have moved them into exact astronomical position, even using ball bearings.

It appears to have been a large ceremonial center where a considerable number of politically important aristocratic men stayed briefly during solstices.

Michale Parker Perason and Andrew Young appeared.

I visited the Stonehenge site, about 120 miles SW of London by Train and bus, in November 1982.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Wikipedia attribution link for Stone Plan diagram

Monday, November 15, 2010

AC360 starts series on animal intelligence: dolphins and mirrors

On Monday Nov. 15 Anderson Cooper 360 started a series on animal intelligence, showing how dolphins behave after they recognize themselves as individuals in a mirror lowered into an aquarium in Baltimore. A dolphin that was marked looked to see what was done to him. Elephants would do this. Dolphins may recognize themselves in mirrors at younger ages than human toddler.

Cats and dogs do not recognize themselves, or show much interest in mirrors; however personal observation shows that they understand that television images are not real. In 1979, in a Dallas garden apartment, a stray male cat learned to recognize my car and run to my apartment door as I pulled in.

The superior intelligence of dolphins (the orca is probably the second most intelligent animal on the planet, and apparent has a language with actual grammar) shows convergent evolution: animals in very different environments that need to hunt for prey tend to develop high intelligence. This probably would happen on other planets. It also raises questions of recognition of “human rights” for animals that approach human intelligence.

Tuesday the show will cover lemurs.

See also my "drama blog" Nov. 10, 2009 for an account of the Baltimore dolphin show.

In 1993, Time Magazine had an issue titled "Can animals think?"

Tonight AC360 also covered the debate over John Tyner's videotape of his confrontation with the TSA over body scans in San Diego.  See "isses blog."

Update: Nov. 17

Anderson Cooper donned a bunny suit at the request of a Bonobo chimpanzee, which apparently can understand complete human sentences.  There are only about 5000 Bonobo's left in the world, all in the Congo.  Some zoologists have documented the fact that Bonobos form same-sex attachments.

Remember, some time back, Animal Planet showed a Toronto zoologist winning the approval of the alpha male of a lion pride in Africa so he could film them; he did so by learning their complex body language.

Update: Nov. 18

AC360 discussed the intelligence of dogs, which is focused on bonding to a master who will take care of the dog.  How about equal time for cats?  I once befriended a stray cat that learned to recognize the sound of my car and run for my apartment door when he heard it.  Another neighborhood cat will come up and sit on a sidewalk after I pass her yard on foot. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CNN provides brief documentary on Connecticut tragedy; emphasis on younger suspect's motives

On Saturday night, Nov. 13, CNN aired a half-hour special “Pure Evil: The Killings in Connecticut”. Rather than a Dateline style story, it presented a psychological profile of Hayes and particularly Joshua Komisarjevsky, who wrote to reporter and author Brian McDonald (author of “In the Middle of the Night”, somewhat in Capote style).

A writeup of the story by Ashley Fantz is here.

There’s no reason here to reprint the details already so widely reported. But the newly reported writings say a lot about the younger man that is important; tjey show that the second suspect was abused by an older foster brother (itself a pointer to the problems of foster care), and developed a vengeful attitude. It seems that his role in the rampage in Cheshire CT in July 2007 was partly driven by a desire to show that the father who escaped could not protect his families from enemies, that is, ironically the two criminals themselves who called themselves madmen. Hayes said something “got out of control” (common with psychopaths) but the younger suspect wanted to target someone for revenge concerning his own earlier abuse as a boy. This is certainly a most disturbing setup. It sounds like Dr. Phil will weigh in on the second suspect later, and probably so will John Walsh. The pieces of some recent CNN stories fit together, don’t they.

Both suspects had enormous criminal records; why were the out on parole at all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

AC360 continues discussion of Amazon "problem" with John Walsh; slams self-publishing

John Walsh (“America’s Most Wanted”) appeared on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 on Thursday Night Nov. 11, to discuss the Amazon situation (with author Phillip Greaves II and pulling his “controversial” (??) book). The point was made that Amazon has sold other books with this “advocacy” and has profited from it. Where does it draw the line?

It appears from a quick check that Amazon also removed some other titles by Greaves last night (or Greaves could have removed them himself). Some of them did not seem to have objectionable titles as I can best recall.

Cooper and Walsh were critical of self-publishing in general in their discussion.

Walsh suggested that a copy of Greaves’s book could be found in the possession of someone after a crime, resulting on a suit against Amazon. I don’t know if this is credible (I doubt it). “Downstream liability” has been a big topic in Internet self-publishing, and all of the sudden we see the subject being revisited for books, a concern I wondered about when I was working on my “Do Ask Do Tell” book in 1997.

I covered this first on my Book Review blog Nov. 11 (I mentioned the “Hit Man” case in the 1990s), but Anderson carried the story onto a second night of AC360 with comments on other similar books and the lack of oversight over self-publishing. This sounds like an existential threat to companies like iUniverse, for example.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obermann resumes "Countdown" on MSNBC with no regrets

Keith Obermann returned to “Countdown” on MSNBC Tuesday night and hosted a lively discussion of many of the issues, especially pushing back the GOP attack on “Obamacare”. Yet, the GOP may have a point in that in some countries with single payer systems the truly needy and aged do not get good care, which is rationed on a utilitarian basis.

Obermann said he would do it again, if he had to, and that he thought he had fully disclosed his activities properly. He had not made contributions at the time he interviewed some of the candidates.

Today, in an editorial, USA Today “Our view on the news business: Lines blur as journalism heads back to the future”, Gannett admitted that it told some employees not to contribute to political candidates again, even though it understands that the paradigm for “what is journalism” has become murky in the age of cable and Internet. The link is here.

MSNBC (and CNBC) tends to have a somewhat “liberal” reputation, as does CNN, compared to conservative Fox. On the other hand the owning network NBC is obviously more neutral in its reporting.

I was employed by NBC as a mainframe computer programmer in the 1970s, so the incident has some meaning to me. I don’t rule out the possibility of working there again at all (I am 67).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"Days" has a "family will" played from a DVD; "Event" gives a strong hint as to "what it is"

Just a couple of notes on some shows I’ve covered before.

On “Days of our Lives”, the characters do a “Reading of the Will” (like in John Knowles’s story) by watching Ari’s DVD. I’ve never heard of someone putting a will on a DVD before. I don’t know if you can notarize a DVD. (Maybe you can in Ohio.)

But the scene exudes all that “family emotion” stuff that seems so alien to me. The whole soap opera is about people using sex and marriage to gain the right to manipulate the emotions and loyalties of others. (After all, wills are about that.) No one is on their own. This show is not in the libertarian spirit. (The characters who were, like Nick Fallon and Max, are all long gone; the sensitive, intellectual Nick was “ruined” and at one point was tricked into raising OPC, other people’s children.) And that sarcophagus live video feed was weird, but so was Stefano’s Island replica of Salem back in 2004.

NBC’s “The Event” resumed Monday night (Nov. 8) with the weakest episode so far. But next week we’re supposed to find out more about what “The Event” is – something happens to Earth when the aliens go back home. (It’s not like “V” or “Independence Day” or even the upcoming “Skyline”). They’re doing DNA tests in the government to find the moles (who “them” are), and pretty soon I guess Sean will get one himself and find out that, well, he is more like Clark Kent than an ordinary human.

I don’t know what technology could have let the aliens get here from “Gliese 581 G”. Or maybe they’re closer, like angels stationed on Titan.

Monday, November 08, 2010

NBC interviews George W. Bush about "Decision Points"

NBC carried an hour-long interview between Lester Holt and former president George W. Bush about his book “Decision Points” on Monday November 8.
He first talked about going sober, before being elected governor of Texas.

The President recounted his inauguration day, when protest signs read “Hail to the Chief”.

He recalled the entire day of 9/11, and feared for a while that his own jets had shot down Flight 93. He already knew about the first plane when he went into the elementary school room, but thought it was an accident. When Andrew Card whispered seven minutes into the session, he “knew.”

He says that he made the right decision to go to war in Iraq even if the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was wrong.

He also says that it was right for him to approve the TARP bailouts to keep the economy from going on. He said, “Wall Street got drunk, and we had the hangover.”

He also indicated that the local authorities in the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina did not show “leadership ability.”

Sunday, November 07, 2010

PBS: "Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of the Possible"

On Saturday Nov. 6, PBS aired the two hour film “Humphrey” or "Hubert H. Humprhey: The Art of the Possible" , a 2 hour biography about the life of Hubert Humphrey, who ran for president in 1968 against Richard Nixon.

KQED has a website for the film here. The film was producted by the University of Minnesota and Hamline University (in St. Paul), with official link here (from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs).

There are interviews with President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, Bill Moyers, Tom Hayden. At one point, Humphrey warned that if arms were not contained, the current generation might be “the last generation”.

When I was in the Army in 1968-1970, most servicemembers in the barracks at Fort Eustis thought that we had a better chance of getting out of Vietnam with Nixon than Humphrey, and Johnson had been viewed as a warmongerer.

Toward the end, the film covers the “Medium Cool” 1968 Democratic convention and riots.

The film also covers the 1948 Democratic convention and the split with the southern Democrats over race. It also covers his long history in Minnesota politics; Walter Mondale was his natural successor.