Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The Event": the Washington Monument goes, and a Face Off happens

Last night, “The Event” (episode called “Face Off”) treated us to a visitor-caused earthquake, and the toppling of the Washington Monument (which could have happened on 9-11). Unfortunately for Sophia (Laura Innes) and Thomas and her aliens, it was all a bluff.  (Sophia had tried to beg Thomas off and had to confront the president with an about-face.) NSA cryptographers decipher her communications, and a president Martinez (Blair Underwood), who looks like Obama, attacks the busses filled with aliens going out to the “rendez-vous” set up by the Triplets of Belleville.  But one of the busses (with Sophia on it) gets through the portal.

Sean (a compact and muscular and very “nice” Jason Ritter), on the other hand, transports himself to the Jura mountains in France to look at an archeological find of the aliens’ earlier time on Earth 10000 years ago.  (There is a curious reference to the Fourth Dominion in Clive Barker’s “Imajica”. ) Sean’s own statements about his nature become more ambiguous.  He must know by now who he is.  But the character is s curious mixture of Mark Zuckerberg (not as Jesse Eisenberg plays him) and Clark Kent (as Tom Welling plays him), with all the “computerese” skills and none of the supposed social awkwardness of the former.  Could such a person exist, without being an extraterrestrial himself?

Monday, March 28, 2011

President speaks about Libya; NBC follows with "ALL" benefit performance for Points of Light

President Obama spoke at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in SW Washington DC tonight, about policy in Libya.  He pointed out that it took eight years and a trillion dollars to replace Saddam Hussein by force and Iraq and that we could not afford to do that again. But he discussed the air strikes and coalition cooperation and legal justification for actions to prevent Ghadafy from continuing to attack his own people.

Fort McNair is where President Clinton announce his first “honorable compromise” on gays in the military on July 19, 1993, with “don’t ask, don’ tell, don’t pursue”.  The “don’t purse” part got forgotten quickly.

At 8 PM, NBC replaced the usual episode of “Chuck” with a benefit variety show “ALL”, that is, “All Together Now: A Celebration of Service” from the Points of Light Foundation, link here.   "Points of Light" had been the first president Bush's call for "compassionate conservatism" back in 1989. Both “Bush” presidents, Clinton, and Carter attended.  (Back in the 1990s, Carter gave a speech about service at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC in conjunction with his own Habitat for Humanity effort.)

The MC distinguished between “volunteering” and “community service”, which she said is what celebrities get sentenced to when they do bad things on Rodeo Drive.  Performers included Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Cee Lo Green, Reba McEntire, Sam Moore, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood.

President Carter presented a volunteer project for cleaning up the Mississippi Delta.  

Quote later: "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth".  It is non fiat, not contractual.

President Clinton said that the only instruction he got from the first president Bush as he took office Jan. 20, 1993 was to keep the "points of light" going. 

One of my best volunteer sequences was with Food and Friends in the 1990s in SE Washington DC. I did a lot of the donation counting. Another was the Oak Lawn Counseling Center (Dallas TX) AIDS buddy program in the 1980s.  The best volunteer experiences seem to happen close to home, culturally. I don't know if it should be that way. 

The benefit took place at the Kennedy Center.

The spirit of the show resembled "CNN Heroes" a bit.  

See coordinated movie review of "I Am", movies blog, March 26.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

CNN: Documentary on fight over mosque in Tennessee

Soledad O’Brien reported the one-hour documentary  on CNN March 27, “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”, about the practical and legal battle over plans to build a mosque in Rutherford County, TN, very near Murfreesboro, TN, south of Nashville.

Originally, signs are vandalized and equipment is burned, but most of the film concerns the lawsuit to try to get an injunction stopping the building. Plaintiffs try to argue that building the mosque would bring Sharia law to the county, and also try to argue that Islam is not a valid religion, based on extremist interpretations known to be publicized since 9/11.  It sounds like punishing everyone for the sins of a few.

Among the plaintiffs is a realtor, who admits she is regarded as a bigot. A young female Muslim argues with a Republican congressional candidate that no women in Rutherford County are abused by Islam.

Wikipedia attribution link for Rutherford County Courthouse, site of trial.  My most recent visit to Nashville was way back in 1988. 

Some of my own pictures from 2004 trip:

Scopes Trial  ("Inherit the Wind" and that "old time religion is good enough for me") sign in Dayton, TN:
Hillsboro, TN:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reelz will air "The Kennedys"; there is plenty of controversy about a supposed conservative "smear" of Camelot

There is a 8-part new series, “The Kennedys”, starring Greg Kinnear, Barry Pepper, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson, premiering Sunday April 3 on Reelz, a small cable channel. In Arlington VA, I noticed that Comcast does not (yet) carry it.  DirectTV, Dish, Verizon and AT&T do carry it.  (Usually that means a network was too small to negotiate a financially acceptable deal with Comcast, but public pressure could change things.)  The Reelz link for the show is here.

There is a curious history behind this miniseries.  The History Channel was to become the original host. History is owned by a consortium that includes NBC and Disney.  Normally, History does not present “dramas” as such (like HBO); typically it shows custom-made docudramas that fit its format. History said that the series did not fit its “brand”.  But most observers say that the conservative politics of the creator Joel Surnow  (“24” on Fox) killed the deal.

Hollywood Reporter’s story on the fallthrough is here

The Reelz trailer has a quote: “It’s not what you are, it’s what people think you are.”  That’s like my father saying one time after my 1961 WM expulsion, “we have to worry about what everyone thinks.”    Ayn Rand had already discounted the importance of “the opinions of others.”  And that’s a conservative view now.

The Huffington Post has a lot of coverage of the matter, such as here

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films  offer an 11-minute short film “Stop Kennedy Smears”, (or "Stop the Kennedy Smears"; "the" is not in the opening title on the video itself) which has its own petition website here. The film discusses conservative accusations that Kennedy is somehow to blame for the Berlin Wall, which was going up as I started at William and Mary. There is plenty of déjà vu for me.

I've never been one to favor petitions to keep any show off the air.  The answer to bad speech is more speech. 

There have been a lot of series about the Kennedys over the year; On my "doaskdotell.com" site, I got a lot of interest when I reviewed History's "The Men Who Killed Kennedy". 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oprah's "Ultimate Australian Adventure"

Oprah Winfrey has spent her last two shows on her Ultimate Australian Adventure, in two parts. Geographically, Thursday’s show was the most interesting, as he visited the Great Barrier Reef, under peril from climate change, and Urulu, in the interior, and Ayer’s Rock.

Australia is geographically a mirror of the US, without a Rocky Mountains section, just an outback and desert in the west.

The second day was spiritually more interesting, as Oprah and a party of several hundred climb the 440-foot trestle of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Guests are tethered for the climb, and must pass a breathalyzer test.

At the end, Oprah marveled at the regatta (as if from “The Social Network”) named after her, and noted how a poor girl from Mississippi can make it – so anyone can make it.  Even liberal Democrats like Oprah know that isn’t always true.

Oprah also mentioned that this is her last season in her current format. 

A typical link is here.

The World of Travel calls the “Red Mountain” one of the world’s most spectacular places. It looks a bit like Mars.

Picture: No, not Australia; a kids' fantasy at the Lego exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington. Think of it as an extraterrestrial city. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

"The Event": The invaders face a supernova in their home world, and Sean tricks the security at a benefit

On Monday, March 21, NBC’s “The Event” presented it’s “clearest” clue yet with an episode “A Messae Back”. Thomas, challenging Sofia, assembles his followers in a Los Angeles church and announces the “message” from his own extraterrestrial civilization (which has no problem with the speed of light barrier):  Its own solar system’s star is going supernova, so the entire planet has to move to Earth immediately.

A supernova would blast any earth-distant world within minutes, not two weeks.

In the meantime, Sean gets himself into a fund raiser in what looks like the Washington DC National Building Museum, where SLDN just had its annual dinner. I never heard of a fundraiser with tight security like this. When Sean gives him thumbprint, it gets an “error”, but no problem; the next time it works.  Either than’s Sean’s hacking, or it’s his extraterrestrial powers.  He is practically superman (starting out as an ordinary young man walking into a plot and challenged to find out who he really is).

But the astronomy in the series isn’t quite working. Try cosmology instead.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CNN's news coverage

CNN is dazzling us with the detailed coverage of multiple crises around the world, in the middle East and Japan, most notably the nuclear power plant crisis and possible meltdowns and radiation releases that could, in small amounts, reach the U.S.    We wonder how Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta can fly around the world like Superman, showing up at disaster sites in fewer hours than it should take to get there by normal air travel.  Do they even have their own lives?
In fact, in September 2008, Cooper was wading in flood waters from Hurricane Rita in Texas, and wasn’t in the “right place” for the fiscal crisis that would erupt in his home field the next day.
But CNN has the irritating habit of recycling the same reports every three hours, especially on weekends; and it’s online program schedule is not always accurate.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Indian Point north of New York City  The power plant is under increasing concern as not built to withstand strong earthquakes that may be possible on the fault over which it is built. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

History Channel: "Angels and Aliens"

Tonight the History Channel aired “Angels and Aliens” in its “Ancient Aliens” series.

The early part of the show focused on the Book of Enoch,not part of the standard Bible. Generally, angels were beings divided into “hosts”, one group of which were “fallen”. 

But rather than the typical Biblical interpretation, the show asked whether angels had been extraterrestrials, or even “ultraterrestrials” who could come from other dimensions or parallel universes (almost as in “Inception”).
Were angels like physical people?  The common analogy might be Superman, or Clark Kent in the “Smallville” series, or maybe (as the plot develops), “Sean” in NBC’s “The Event”.  They may seem ordinary but have “powers” to distort space-time around them, or simply be unusually gifted.   The characterization as “giants” was probably metaphoric.

The show examined the angels of Sodom and Gomorrah, with Lot turning to a pillar of salt when seeing a nuclear blast.  The show did not mention the usual "moral" (to use the word loosely) misuse of this Biblical story. 

The show examined whether the Transfiguration on Mt. Herman invoked angels, and it was at the same parallel (33rd) as Roswell, NM.

The Islamic faith claims that every person has two angels recording deeds.

But the general conclusion was that the Bible is the most complete source of information about extraterrestrials and offers the most evidence of their existence.

In one of my novel drafts, I propose that certain people could “become” angels.  They would have to join in eternal marriage eventually but be prepared to have a paternal relationship with other people’s children (specifically from individuals that I call “old souls”) without having their own. But there would be a host of 144,000 “old” angels, some of whom could have fallen; some new angels could fall, too. They would have the power to “capture” and contract the consciousness of others. There would exist a novel"virus", with radioactive atoms that could contain singularities, which can transform some people into angels. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BBC has one of the best videos on Titan, moon of Saturn

I was looking to see who had made a legitimate short film about Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and the best that I found quickly was a 2007 film by BBC, “Scientists Research Surface of the Titan Moon”.

There are some comparisons to Earth, but the most important portion may concern volcanoes on Titan, which spew lava comprising supercooled water, with dissolved ammonia, a viscous liquid at -100 C.

The video speculates that Titan’s chemistry froze out just before reaching the complexity needed for life. 

Wikipedia attribution link for new map of Titan's surface here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"The Event" has unfortunate timing in a nuclear power plant plot element tonight

NBC’s “The Event” displayed some unfortunate timing tonight (given what happened in Japan just before airing), with a subplot about the aliens’ intention to create a nuclear power plant catastrophe north of LA (one of the most vulnerable to 8.0+ earthquakes and maybe tsunami and loss of backup power), to set up a magnetic singularity that would allow other aliens to arrive.

Sean, despite his best efforts to be civil, gets involved in a bar brawl, where the skinny Sean (rather like a Tim Lincecum) beats a much larger man almost to death.  Leila questions his real motives, and it becomes clear that his actions make sense if he is one of them, too. But the desperately wants to be a good person by human standards.  Who wouldn’t be proud of a son that turns out like Sean?

General Electric, owner of NBC Universal, has designed many of these reactors. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NBC SNL: Zach G. ("The Bear") hosts; "Titanic Watch" parodies "women and children first"

Zach Galifianakas hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC Saturday, March 12, the last “ancient evening” before daylight savings time. That means the audience had a late night, too.

Zach started out with a lot of gay-oriented jokes, and used a grade-school style easel  to give his punch lines.
Zach, with his heavy beard and portly appearance, fits the stereotype of what the leather world calls “bears”, had threatened to lose it all on the show. That didn’t happen, but in the last scene he had a Mohawk partial head shave (which may have been done with prosthetics).

The most interesting skit was the next-to-last, a spoof of the last scene in the 1997 film “Titanic”. Zach, in drag, is on one of the life boats, because it’s “women and children first”.  He is taking advantage of what right wing zealot James Nicolosi calls his “gender deficit”. Why should he have to become fungible and be sacrificed for others?  Any young man in the past exposed to the Vietnam draft (or earlier, like WWII or Korea) could ask the same question.

Remember that in the film, Di Caprio’s character dies of exposure in the water while Kate’s goes on to have babies and a long life.

Seth Meyers used the “b” and “p” words in his monologue, but made a Red Cross appeal at the end.

Here's "Titanic Watch":

Picture: Potomac River flood, Brunswick, MD

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

History Channel: Ancient Aliens: Underwater cities could be over 10000 years old

On Wednesday, March 9, 2011, the History Channel and Prometheus Films “Ancient Aliens” series aired a one hour documentary, “Underwater Worlds: Atlantis versus Aliens”, about underwater ruins, starting with Bimini in the Bermuda Triangle, and then moving to a similar ruin at the same latitude off a southern Japanese island, and a similar ruin off western India. The ruins appear to be small cities with streets and stacked buildings, sometimes in a pyramid form. The most interesting ruin is under Lake Titicaca, at 12000 feet between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes, near the ancient city of Tiahuanaco. Some scholars believe that these structures were built before the Ice Age.
The film started by examining Plato’s legend of Atlantis.  One theory says that Atlantis was lifted out of the sky.

Here’s a comment link.
Wikipedia attribution link for Tiahuanaco archeology picture

Monday, March 07, 2011

"The Event": 2 hour spring premiere; the extraterrestrials want our planet back; except that some of us don't know we're "them"

"The Event" resumed for the spring, with a two hour special (two one hour segments), a lot of the action taking place in the Alaskan encampment (at Mt. Inostranka) as Thomas tries to start a rebellion.

But the most interesting scenes are in the second hour, when Sofia talks to Sean, while Leila's "alien" father talks to her. Yup, Leila asks what am I, and then Sean decides he can still show affection. I still think that later we'll learn that Sean is "alien" too  (I thought Sofia was going to say it for a moment).

"They're not coming to save the planet, they're coming to take it back."

Could a world go on where some people live 50 times as long as everyone else and don't age? They would be angels.

My 25-chapter novel manuscript "Brothers" might make for a TV series like this: there is a "calamity" that has grown within the establishment but that came from afar, an encapsulating virus that can change reality. One character, a government CIA agent with a cover job as a history teacher, finds the "real truth" in a relationship with a gay college student (and computer hacker, of course) who seems to be more in touch with the origins of the supernatural virus than he is; and then he must face the truth about what he needs from his own relationships with people, as his life tracks to the breakdown of the world around him.  But one thing in my novel is that the supporting characters have significant backstories which would have to be shown in flashbacks, which is difficult to do in a television series because the audience is too intermittent to pay full attention. Neither "The Event" nor "Flashforward" go back in time as much, except when "The Event" refers to the 1944 crash and the "evidence" in photo albums, etc.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

CNN: Fareed Zakaria GPS: "Restoring the American Dream"

On Sunday, March 6, Fareed Zakaria broadcast a one-hour special “Restoring the American Dream:  Getting Back to #1?” which appears to be a rehash of an earlier program like this in October (then, “Is America Still #1?”), as part of his Global Public Square (GPS) on CNN.

The thrust of the argument is that the rest of the world is catching up, and that history has many examples of countries that played “Yankees” for a few decades or even centuries before they declined, sometimes because of challenge from rivals.

This was true of Britain in the 19th Century, which was surpassed first by Germany and the US before both world wars.  But Britain’s success was a bit of a demographic improbability, compared to the US. But wealthy powers tend to get populated by older people, which eventually hurts their competitiveness (“demographic winter”).

Zakaria intervened the founders of Foursquare   (Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai), now valued at $250 million.  Both said that the US was unique in that failing in business is not stigmatized in the US the way it is in many parts of the world.

A speaker from Goldman Sachs indicated that fiscal responsibility would mean that the rich should pay more so that we can educate everyone.

Niall Ferguson from Harvard spoke about the importance of “open source” and the six “secret sources of success” including contract law and work ethic.

Zakaria talked about the example set by northern Europe, in setting a safety net and having large public and private investment co-existing. Zakaria says that the US public sector, especially in health care, is very inefficient , and subsidizes consumption rather than investment. The US spends four times as much on the elderly as on the young. Again, the demography problem.  He also criticizes the serious flaws in our political system, with enormous inefficiencies and overlaps, as well as interest groups that lock in the present.

Zakaria’s new story in Time Magazine (March 3, 2011), “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us”, is here

Picture: "Best Buy" (Blue and Yellow) equals "Buy More" (Green and orange) on "Chuck" (and "Geek Squad" becomes "Nerd Herd".  But the herd instinct can bring us down.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

CNN airs documentary on Rodney King on 20th Anniversary of incident, with interview of King today

CNN, on Saturday, aired a documentary special “Race and Rage: The Beating of Rodney King”, narrated by Don Lemon.

The film documented the history of the March, 1991 incident in Los Angeles, starting with the low speed chase that led the arrest and beating, resulting in injuries in which bones were pulverized to sawdust.  But a neighbor caught it on a videocam with 1991 technology, and even in pre-Internet days, the video went viral, resulting in a trial against police officers. Acquittal by a mostly white jury led to enormous riots, in which innocents were targeted and beaten (like Denny).

Lemon interviews Rodney King today.  The episode is viewed as a powerful example of how powerful citizen journalism can become in affecting history.

In three years the King incident would be followed by O.J. Simpson. 

Update: April 30, 2012

CNN re-aired this on April 29, 2012.  There is a lot of coverage of the civil rights violation trial in the second half of the film, as well as the civil lawsuit.  

Friday, March 04, 2011

Piers Morgan interviews a wholesome Matt Damon, now 40, on CNN

On Thursday, March 3, Piers Morgan on CNN interviewed actor Matt Damon, who has just had his 40th birthday, but still looks under 30. 

Matt said that school systems are way off base by emphasizing measuring kids by standard tests and drills; he said we are training them rather than educating him. He said the movie “Waiting for Superman” shows an elistist attitude toward education.

He said he lived in New York now (East Village), and talked about his family with four daughters.  Back in 2002, he had told Barbara Walters that he had moved into his townhome in NYC the night before 9/11, and woke up to news of the attacks.

He talked about “The Adjustment Bureau”, his new movie, as a parable about the desire of “society” or “God” to take away the ability of the individual to control his own destiny.

He said that he and Ben Affleck went to New York on auditions at age 16, but was grateful that he started college and didn’t work all the time. He and Ben wrote “Good Will Hunting”; he still has the original on his own PC. He said that Ben is having trouble getting work for other directors, so he is doing his own writing and directing, and that experience has been therapeutic for Ben.

He didn’t talk about Project Greenlight, which would have been interesting.

Matt Damon also said he was interested in directing now.  (How about something like “Do Ask Do Tell”, Matt?)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" shows people threatened with home condemnation, jail for hoarding

The Learning Channel (TLC) has a series called “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, which it aired many episodes of tonight (March 2). This series is about people who compulsive keep so much clutter in their homes that they become totally unliveable. Oprah Winfrey has also covered some of this.

The 9 PM episode told the story of a 60-something man with two grown daughters in rural Connecticut in what looked like an expanded mobile home. The police and fire marshall came an cleared away the outdoors area, and then inspected inside. The Fire Department gave him six weeks to clean up inside or have the home condemned and possibly face jail time. I’ve never heard of the “state” taking such aggressive action over this issue.

The link for the show is here.

The YouTube video gives another example of a government condemnation threat.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

ABC's "Castle" poses a moral question: is a novelist (or filmmaker or website author) responsible for acts his art "inspires"?

Can a “thriller” novelist, with all his nefarious imagination, help a police department solve crimes with his people skills, especially when the crimes imitate those in some of his novels?

That’s a major premise of the ABC series “Castle”, with Nathan Fillion as the mystery novelist, and Stana Katic as NY detective Kate Beckett.

It has sometimes been a bone of moral contention, that media gives criminals or unstable or mentally ill people “ideas”, and so can fiction writers, who would rather live in imagination than “real life.”  

Of course, in a real police assignment, the novelist has to become a “people person”.

The episode “Countdown” on Feb. 28 did explain the risk of a “radioactive dispersion device” well, as it races against the clock to prevent one in the City. The show explains the long term risk to people in the fringe of the affected area, and the utter ruination of property values that would occur in a city. In the specific episode, a right-wing extremist (who calls himself a “patriot”) wants to make an “example” with an implausible plot involving stealing the identity of a soldier fallen in Afghanistan.

There’s a good point that a super-dangerous lone wolf is as likely to be a right wing or mentally ill domestic extremist as someone converted to radical Islam.

In the episode, Castle defuses the device hands on, by pulling all the wires. Forget the intellect.

ABC's site for the show is here

TV Guide and Holywood 411 offers this YouTube trailer for the series.