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.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

History Channel's 2 Hour Documentary "Marijuana: A Chronic History"

Marijuana: A Chronic History”, a two-hour documentary, aired on the History Channel on Nov. 3. The film covered both the growing use of medical marijuana, accepted in many states, and libertarian calls for full legalization.

The film made the point that legalization is not the same thing as decriminalization. Legalization would make marijuana like tobacco and alcohol, dubious and a “vice” but a good source of tax revenue, especially in budget or recession strapped areas like northern California where it is grown in many counties, under the nose of law enforcement. There seems little doubt that legalization would help economically and provide tax revenue and jobs.

However, even when a state legalizes it, possession is still a federal offence, and federal law trumps, always.

Libertarian arguments emphasize: "You have a right to do with your own body what you please as long as you do not harm anyone else." That's logical. But it keeps reaching an impasse with more collective notions of morality and shared responsibility.

In revolutionary times, the Declaration of Independence and other documents were written on hemp paper. Marijuana didn’t become illegal until the 20th Century. In the 1930s, the government launched an anti-pot campaign, with movies like Louis J. Gasnier’s “Reefer Maddness” (1936, aka “Tell Your Children”), clips of which are shown in the History Channel documentary.

The film traces the history of the setup of the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, by Nixon, who saw his political opponents, the protesters and hippies, as connected to drug use. The Reagan Administration, with Nancy, made “Just say no” a pop culture saying.

In 1973, New York State passed a very draconian anti-drug law, and plastered the NYC subway with dire warnings “don’t get caught holding the bag”.

Even some New Age groups opposed its use, despite popular opinion. Dan Fry’s group “Understanding”, west of Phoenix, holding UFO conventions in the late 1970s, was very anti-pot. I know from attending some of them.

Proposition 19, to legalize marijuana in California, failed on November 2.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

PBS Nova: "Trapped in an Elevator"

On November 2, PBS and NOVA presented a one hour documentary “Trapped in an Elevator”. The central piece of the one hour docudrama was the plight of Nicholas White, trapped in a Rockefeller Center elevator in New York for 41 hours over a weekend after a voltage surge stalled one late on a Friday night. For some reason, no one monitored them over the weekend. He collected a $200000 settlement for negligence, although he was finally detected on a Sunday afternoon.

The show discussed elevator maintenance in New York, and gave an animated history of elevators back to the 19th century with innovator Otis, and diagrammed the mechanical engineering behind the powerless safety brake system.

The link is here.

The show also presented the elevator engineering in the 2700 foot high Burj Dubai.

Elevators do face mechanical limits on how high they could be built.

I was trapped in an elevator in a Washington DC building in late 1989 for about two hours late at night before the fire department finally came.

Here’s a brief video from Nova, “An Elevator to Space?”

Monday, November 01, 2010

Dr. Phil presents a parent arrested for confronting bullies on a school bus

Dr. Phil today held an important discussion about school bullying when he presented a father ("Vigilante Dad?") arrested for disorderly conduct after boarding a school bus in Seminole County, FL to confront kids who had bullied his daughter.

One important point made was that not all kids on the bus had been involved, but the father confronted them, too.

On the other hand, both the school administration and the parents of the kids had failed completely to control the behavior of bullies.

Dr. Phil has also posed a question on Facebook as to whether it is appropriate for a parent to confront his child’s bully, here.

The link for the segment today (now on Fox) is here.

I reviewed the film “Bullied” on my movies blog Oct. 15.

Back on April 15, 2009 someone (SiouxRioux) posted an earlier Dr. Phil segment on bullying with guest Clay Aiken. The bullying problem has been percolating for a long time (particularly on line) but the physical bullying issue has been getting greatly increased attention lately.