Thursday, September 29, 2011

ABC's Pan Am: Period glamour, deceptive face of a troubling period of history, but glory days for an airline

Jack Orman’s new series “Pan Am” for ABC, harkens back to the “good old days” when the airlines were a highly regulated but smoothly running industry.

With Sci-fi and police dramas not always doing so well now, ABC has elected period drama for late Sunday nights with this series about what used to be the world’s biggest transcontinental airline. This takes place in 1963.

The world was a more modern place than we think then. But people still typed theses on manual typewriters, and air travel was a bit of a luxury. So passengers were pampered.

The show focuses on the stringent standards expected of “stewardesses”, with Maggie (Christina Ricci) unable to pass “inspection” for her uniform because of her girdle. And there’s the issue of not having the right stockings. But it turns out she’s needed anyway.

Kate (Kelli Garner) is approached by the CIA to eavesdrop on certain travelers, and the import of the Cold War is explained. This Pilot episode is supposed to take place shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct. 1962), and the politics of Cuba works into the script.

You can watch already aired episodes here on ABC.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weather Channel, residents make documentaries on Chicago 2011 blizzard with the narrow escapes on Lake Shore Drive

The Weather Channel runs many half hour documentaries of how individual people dealt with weather disasters (as with the upcoming Sony film “Take Shelter”). On Sept. 28, it showed how people dealt with being caught in a Loews in a North Carolina tornado in April 2011, but the really interesting segment was “Twist of Fate”. 

A young woman who works in a Chicago area mall tries to beat the incredible Groundhog Blizzard and gets stranded with a thousand other people on Lake Shore drive. Way out of range of rescue, she took a chance on depending on a stranger. There was a clear danger of death from hypothermia if motorists did not help one another.  

The film also showed the thunder snow. 

The link is here

Here I am, writing about snow in September, and I don't live in Fairbanks.

Here is a Chicago resident’s (Daton Kunkel) 12 minute documentary “Chicago Blizzard: The 2011 Snowpocalypse Documentary”.



Note: The review on the PBS Nova films tonight on Japan's earthquake and tsunami are on my "disaster movies" blog (check profile).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

PBS Frontline: "The Man Behind the Mosque": "An Optimist in Haiti"

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, PBS Frontline presented a 40 minute segment “The Man Behind the Mosque”, directed by Don Read, about the plans or inspiration of real estate developer Sharif El-Gambal to build a community center (not necessarily just a mosque) on Park Place, about three blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

I visited the area in October 2010. There is an Amish market near the site.  Surprisingly, a lot of people on the street did not know where the site was when I looked for it.  I was on my way that day to the Poisson Rouge. 

The documentary did cover the arguments pro and con, which zip past one another.  Later Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, appears.


The PBS link for the episode is here

Then Frontline presented a shorter film, “An Optimist in Haiti”, about the efforts of Lionel Pressoir to make the town of Milot, Haiti into a travel destination.   A couple of old momuments and forts are shown. Cruise ships do offer limited travel nearby today.

Last picture: Mother's trip to the Caribbean, mid 1990s. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Terra Nova" is really an Old Earth

So here’s the low-down on the concept of “Terra Nova”, the new sci-fi series that started tonight on (broadcast) Fox.  Maybe it refutes my contention last week that the networks have given up on the sci-fi series.

In 2149, the world is ruined by climate change – and looks like am extract from “Blade Runner”.   (The CGI effects were pretty detailed; this would have been good in 3-D Imax in a movie.) As in China, families are limited to two kids (not just one, which was China), else jail for the father. But the powers that be design a “time stream” to set up pilgrimages to 85 million BC, during the dinosaurs (before the asteroid) and give people a chance to colonize Jurassic Park and rebuild.

Now, I don’t buy violating the time arrow of physics. I could accept going to another planet, or even a parallel universe. So let’s see “Terra Nova” as a parallel world.

Jason O’Mara plays a cop, married to a doctor Elizabeth (Shelley Conn), and has gone to the pokey for having a thir kid. The oldest Josh is played by smooth-looking  Landon Liboiron, with siblings Naomi Scott  and the illegal baby Zoe (Alana Monsour). Elizabeth gets invited to join the Seventh Pilgrimage, and gets her hubby out. Now going through security to enter the portal is easier than it is with the TSA to fly today.

Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) runs a dictatorship (or “Timocracy”) in his circular compound carved out of the jungle (which looks almost like the set of Avatar, or at least southern China).  Inside, the lifestyle is a curious mix of new technology and old. Sorry, there’s no Facebook.

Nate explains the political problems in Terra, caused by conflicts among the pilgrimages that map those back in Mother Country.  The economy could not be mercantilist, since there is no way to send stuff back (through a forward Time Arrow) to "mother country", but it seems like there is no fiat medium of exchange.  I’ve explored that idea in one of my own screenplays (“Prescience”), a sequel to a UFO landing, where abductees visit a planet where the kingdoms match earth civilization at various times in history and technological development, and the trick is to move the technology around (illegally), and again where the social system is a mixture of Timocracy and moral meritocracy, without money.

Toward the end, the kids (Josh) go on adventures outside the perimeter, and have to be rescued from the velociraptors.  A 20-something in another family, Hunter, is played by Sam Parsonson, and is eye-popping cute. Unfortunately, he doesn’t survive the raptors unscathed (his legs are flayed by the beasts).  Sorry for the spoiler.

Steven Spielberg was excutive producer, with his production company Amblin (and, oh yes, 20th Century Fox). Today, on p C6 in The Washington Times, reviewer Rob Owen mentioned Spielberg’s series “Sea Quest DSV” in the 90s as a flop, but I thought the concept of a submarine with a resident dolphin and teen graduate student was interesting.  

The series is created by Craig Silverstein and Kelly Marcel.

Owen also mentioned the new CW series “Hart of Dixie”, comparing it to Everwood. Unfortunately, my Comcast recorder (Guide on the control panel) isn’t working (I haven't bothered to troubleshoot or call them yet), so I’ll have to watch in online soon to review it.

Here’s the official site


See "cf" blog on Nov. 8, 2011 for episode "Nightfall", about a meteor strike and possible EMP damage. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ABC 20-20: "Generation YouTube"

ABC 20-20 last night ran a report “Generation YouTube”, covering the opportunity “ordinary people” have to make themselves famous without “competing” in Hollywood’s or commercial TV’s old empire.

One kid goes viral emulating Justin Bieber. Another man makes a video about United Airlines and its lack of customer service.

Some people have experienced issues with instant fame, being flooded with emails, or their families with unwanted attention.

The show did not cover the problem of copyright infringement, and the DMCA takedown issue, or Google’s “copyright school”.

Another problem has been videos posted in bad taste, such as beatings or bullying, or even the aftermaths of car crashes.  Popularity does not always imply quality.

YouTube is different from social networking in that most YouTube videos are posted with the idea that the entire public will find it.  YouTube is more like most public blogging.

Here's a piece from "Pandemic Labs" on "Going Viral with YouTube" (link).

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Revenge": New series on ABC features bad-girl actress from "Everwood", tests viewers ability to follow flashbacks

The major networks have veered away from sci-fi  (although there will soon be a time-travel “Jurassic” series), but the idea of a complicated story reaching back in time with flashbacks certainly appeals now, even if it makes it harder for intermittent visitors to follow the plot. Such is the case with ABC’s new series “Revenge”, starting Wednesday Sept. 21 at 10 PM. It's one of the most heavily anticipated new series of the Fall 2011 season, after so many other dramatic series have eventually been canceled because ratings couldn't be sustained "forever". 

Here is ABC’s site, and the main director is Phillip Noyce.  The plot is loosely adapted from the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexander Dumas, which I read in ninth grade (and again in French as a senior). The novel was the basis of a big film from Touchstone in 2002, directed by  Kevin Reynolds, with James Caviezel as Dantes (I saw in Minnesota).  More dramatic was the earlier Dumas adventure "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998) with a scraggly Di Caprio from MGM and director Randall Wallace, which made more impression on me. 

Emily Van Camp plays the “heroine” who rents a house in the Hamptons to plan pay-back for the people who destroyed her father and family in the 1990s.  Van Camp had played the self-serving teenager Amy Abbott in “Everwood”.   (I remember a line when she had failed some courses in high school and she told her parents, “I’ll fix it.”)  She’s the same sort of character here. A twist: she's exchanged identities (not bodies a la Smallville) with a former institution-mate and hiding out as Emily Thorne, so she can, with her bourgeois inherited wealth, go after the people who set up her pop, David Clarke. 

The show begins Labor Day weekend at a fireworks party at the estate, when a man is murdered on the beach and soon discovered. It then walks back to April when Emily Thorne  (I thought, is she a “Thorne Bird”?) rents the place, and then takes us back into some backstory in the 90s when her father was wrongfully arrested and she was taken away.

The sets in the show are garish, particularly in high definition, with a lot of red.

Connor Paolo, who had appeared as a gay character in "Gossip Girl", is especially attractive here as a bartender who his present on the beach when the body is found. 

There is a lot of play on New Testament ideas of forgiveness, versus the human need for "justice" and therefore (maybe) revenge. 

I have been looking over my novel manuscript “Brothers”, which I have talked about on this blog before, and also in an Aug. 5, 2009 posting on my Books Blog.   A 30-something CIA agent, married with a family in Dallas and working also as a history teacher, is piecing together possible alien artifacts that explain a slowly emerging (but so far quieted) epidemic of a bizarre “possession” disease that first affects people who live at higher altitudes.  He befriends a gay college student who (at the end of the days of “don’t ask don’t tell”) seems to bring more evidence through his personal life.  Of course, part of the plot concerns the CIA agent’s feeling attracted to the student “Sal”) (and Sal takes advantage of this in an intimate scene) and the implosion of his marriage (as in “Making Love”) – yet his kids will help “save the world”.

The original novel has the lead character making several overseas trips, and then in the second half goes into long “road movie” mode through western states as several other characters, all with complicated pasts related to the “disease” introduction (by aliens) as the population empties out and moves down lower.  In the East, I actually make something of the mountaintop removal issue and reduction of altitude. Finally, there is a climax, involving both apprehensions and an escape in a spaceship. There’s also a secret right wing academy that has been set up for the “new order”.  To make the novel manageable, I “simplified” the story and cut out some of the trips and extended “roadside attractions” sequence.  But the original seems to fit well with a 20-part (or so) series – if viewers can keep track of the flashbacks, where the explanation of what has happened and what now must close things – like they did in “The Event”. Ultimately, the survivors must go to other worlds – not have them teleported here.  I guess I don’t have a “Sofia” character, though, although the gay college student fills the role of “Shawn” in “The Event” as a kind of para-savior.  I do have a retired FBI agent, now legless after a mysterious auto crash (on an earlier, flashbacked road trip out West), and his epidemiologist wife, who is more stable than Sofia, but maybe not under the same pressures from “The Outside”.
Would a suspense or sci-fi thriller accept a gay lead character, who isn’t just there as a comic relief (not  just a “cobbler” to open “Julius Caesar” – I sat in on some lit classes when I subbed).  Would it sustain Nielsen ratings with a gay co-lead in mainstream broadcast TV?

I have to mention another moment here about my book manuscripts, because something like this is probably an issue in any "dramatic" television series. In the original version of my novels, there is a moment where the retired FBI agent, having visited his previously delinquent (computer hacker) grown son, walks away from a train wreck, all the way into a cafe and meets another young adult male character (who walks in, in blue jeans, in "Iceman Cometh" fashion) whom he learns, in an a-ha moment, is an "angel".  The idea that some beings exist who will never age and always remain perfect  (and never have to procreate, perhaps) is suddenly relative truth.  I think this could be a terrific scene to direct. But in the condensed novel (and probably any television series based on my material), the incident must be shown as a flashback (part of the backstory), assuming that the viewer has watched every episode and is committed to following the series. But the condensed novel is told largely from the viewpoint of two characters (the 30-ish CIA man and gay college student), one of whom may have a chance to "become" an angel, and all are linked by a mysterious writer/blogger who wants to be one and who has discovered the "plot" on this own.

There's one plus for cable networks as opposed to broadcast: they don't get pre-empted by breaking news (usually).  But they don't get the audience and advertising dollars necessary to pay for a really ambitious series.

So much for my latest elevator speech.



I wish the networks could come up with another “FlashForward” or resume it.  But I could give them a new idea. 

"Everwood"  (TheWB) is discussed on this blog on a posting March 31, 2006.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Modern Family": gay dads, mountain scenery, potential sibling jealousy, a little bit of everything

I took a look at ABC's “Modern Family” (started 2009, 2011 season restarted  Sept. 21) last night, having vaguely heard about its sweeping at the Emmy’s the way the Nationals swept the Mets last week  -- and maybe the Phillies today.  I’m not much for two separate half-hour episodes; it gives the show a “Will and Grace” effect.

Of course, the obvious hype would come from the male couple Mitchell and Cam (Jessie Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet). They do not fit the stereotype of “mutual admiration of male perfection” so visible in gay discos. Perhaps that’s refereshing.

In the premier this season, the families go to a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (could Dick Cheney be far away?), where the guide promises to make them work for their vacation.  In high definition, the gray (not blue) Tetons rise like an outfield wall, almost with a 3-D effect.  (The episode is titled simply "Dude Ranch").   You wondered if the characters would do a mountain climb and found it hard to believe it could take 12 hours or so.   Even the Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado doesn’t  rise this suddenly from a plain.   (As an aside, Keith Meinhold, a former Navy sub hunter known for his fight against the military gay ban even in the days before “don’t ask don’t tell”, once told me about climbing Mount Rainier in Washington – and they get you up at 2 AM the second day.  Would that make good material for an episode here?)  Mitchell was challenged enough to ride horseback; you probably wouldn’t see him at a gay rodeo in Dallas.

The episode has Mitchell reaffirming his own “masculinity”, especially by stunts like blowing up a bird house. That's vandalism. 
  
This particular episode didn’t get that much into their role as a male couple as parents, raising an adopted Vietnamese baby, Lily (discussion here)

In another subplot, a particularly "cute" but straight ranch hand Dylan (Reid Ewing, from "Fright Night") tries to propose marriage to a guest, and the humbling proposal goes bust, very publicly. But the actor is an eye-popper. He actually fits the modern gay "stereotype" much more than the two openly gay male characters. 

In fact, the second half-hour  ("When Good Kids Go Bad") was more domestic and “indoors” where the possibility of an adopted sibling for Lily is explored (more discussion here) .

When I was about nine, my parents mentioned the possibility of adopting a sister for me (an only child), but that never happened.  But the memory trace was stimulated.

Here is ABC’s site.

PrimeTime Emmys has a YouTube video of the “Outstanding Comedy Series” award to “Modern Family.”


Wikipedia attribution link to p.d. picture of Tetons. I visited the area in May 1981. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

AC360 airs an update on anti-gay bullying on the same day that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in the military ends

Anderson Cooper on AC360 Wednesday night, on the same day that the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy repeal took effect, aired another horrific case of anti-gay bullying and resulting taking of a teen’s own life. This was the case of Jamie Rodemeyer in upstate New York.

Jamie said he got anonymous messages on Formspring.

He also had blogged about the experience and made a video that “it gets better”.  Nevertheless, a tragedy happened, suddenly, after these apparently more upbeat messages.

There followed another debate on anti-bullying.  Anderson mentioned the site “True Tolerance” (link)  which sounds like a misleading title (it comes from “Focus on the Family). 

The situation in Anoka, MN was mentioned. But then the argument twisted on itself. It seemed as though “conservatives” argue that if you have a personal belief against someone else’s behavior or status, you have the right to taunt them.  The view was expressed that teachers and administrators can simply announce that such epithets will not be tolerated on campus (in social networking off campus it gets harder).

Nevertheless, it seems as though some schools (and "conservative" groups) still view bullying as an unavoidable component of the "weeding out" process in growing up.

The next night, AC360 mentioned the story of a boy who was bullied because he took piano lessons. 



Another little note (not enough for a post):  The song "Blue Velvet", from David Lynch's famous 1986 film, was performed on ABC's "The View" Wednesday.  Tony Bennett performed it. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

ABC "Millionaire" quiz show kicks off celebrity version with Carson Kressley as contestant; he almost gets to the end

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is having its own version of “Celebrity Apprentice”, and today Carson Kressley  (link) won $25000 for the Alzheimer’s Association (see link for announcement of walk and need for teams).  Meredith Vieira hosted.   

Kressley rattled off most answers quickly and came within three questions of winning the full $1 million, which I have never seen happen myself.  He finally stumbled on a question involving Ernest Hemmingway and Samuel Beckett.

The domain hosting the show has the odd domain name of dadt, (website url) link. “DADT” here stands for “Disney ABC Domestic Television” but many people will connect it to the notorious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military, recently repealed.  It’s very hard for companies to safely pick acronyms that don’t lead to “double entendre”.  But Disney has used the domain since 2000, with no one noticing (least of all me, who should have, since I own "doaskdotell.com").  

Later Monday, Sept. 19,  Anderson Cooper will interview his own mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, at 4 PM EDT in the DC area.  Anderson himself grew up in New York City. 

Here's a transformation on YouTube, "You Wants to Be a YouTubullionaire".  Yes, the host is cute!


See my Movies blog today for info on the new "Don't Ask Don't Tell" film with cable screenings Sept. 20. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

CNN GPS "Getting Back to Work" with Fareed Zakaria


Start out with this preview where Fareed Zakaria interviews Jeffrey Immelt, on the CNN Global Public Square special “Getting Back to Work”.


The past ten years have focused more on “efficiency” than innovation, where the Internet and dot-com boom added so many jobs in the 90s. It’s interesting that the companies that became Internet behemoths in the 00’s – Google, Facebook and Apple – do hire, in the thousands, but that’s just not enough companies.

One of the ideas was a private-public Infrastructure Bank, taken out of the political pork system, as is done in Europe. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) discussed the idea.  Reliable power and broadband will be very important to attracting jobs, as will reliable transportation.  One idea that I would personally add is hardening the power grid against solar storms (coronal mass ejections) and terrorist EMP attacks, as well as against more conventional cyber attacks.

Public safety was discussed, and the collapsed I-35 bridge in Minneapolis (2007) was shown.

A GM plant building a subcompact in the US was shown, as a clue as to how to bring back manufacturing jobs.

First picture: Electric car charging station, Baltimore Penn Station.
Second picture: Mississippi River waterfront from East Bank, Minneapolis, about 1 mile from bridge that collapsed. 


Third picture (for the update) -- a constructive accident (Brooklyn NY). 


Also:

Here's the PDF of the Emmy winners.  This year, hardly anything that I follow won.  I couldn't even get "The Kennedys" here.  I'm game for another "Flash Forward" or another "Rubicon".  These sorts of series didn't do so well this year.  Don't know why. My own novel manuscript "Brothers" would make a sci-fi series (maybe for Logo).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NBC Dateline reports on Canadian filmmaker committing his own crimes to film them ("Deadly House of Cards" aka "The Devil's Cinema")


Friday night, NBC Dateline aired a strange mystery about a filmmaker in Canada, “Deadly House of Cards”.  Keith Morrison reports.

The story involves a filmmaker in Edmonton, AL, who wrote a script for a murder, then apparently committed the murder and tried to manipulate the justice system to get off so he could make his film. He even tried to plant “urban legends” in advance of his film and possible book.

The film was to be titled “Day Players” or, alternatively, “House of Cards”.

The filmmaker viewed this as an example of “Multiple Angle Psychosis Entertainment” or “MAPLE”. There was a line near the end of his screenplay, “The best way to succeed is to write what you know”.

The case started without a body but with a bizarre script found by police. Eventually the perpetrator led them to the body of Johnny Brian Altinger, who did not know him.

True Crime has more details about the case of Mark Andrew Twitchell here

The idea that fiction could anticipate reality has long been an occasional problem in the courts, all the way back to Bindrim v. Mitchell in California in 1979.  I wrote about this on my “BillBoushka” blog July 27, 2007 with my own situation when I was a substitute teacher.

Twitchell may well have intended "sequels" as a serial. This was going to become another "Silence of the Lambs".



Here is the Wikipedia attribution link for West Edmonton Mall, which I had  visited in Sept. 1983. 

Here is additional coverage after re-airing on July 19, 2014:  This episode seems longer and more complete.  Given the importance of the "fact v. fiction" problem in my own life  (when I was substitute teaching) I'm a little baffled that I didn't recall seeing this episode before when I rewrote the notes below, as I didn't find the account above until later.  Perhaps I missed part of it the first time, or more details have been added. 


NBC Dateline re-aired, as a “Saturday Night Mystery”. (from Sept. 2011) an episode “Deadly House of Cards”, about the case of a filmmaker turned murderer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 2008. There’s a typical account by Steve Lillebuen, here. Lillebuen, who appears in the episode, authored “The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story Behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room” (McClelland and Stewart, 2013, link). The killer was (as just noted) Mark Twitchell, a local horror filmmaker making a pilot horror film “House of Cards” (no relation to the Netflix series) with colleague John Altinger, who disappeared mysteriously.  Police gradually became suspicious of Twitchell.even though he had no criminal record. 

At the trial, Twitchell offered a bizarre defense. He was trying to create an urban legend of a murder so when the movie came out, it would sell.  But in his own mind, he wanted to know he had committed the murder.  The Edmonton police chief said that they caught a serial killer on his first kill.  The horror movie was supposed to mix the genres of “Friday the 13th” with Dexter.  

Part of the forensics included a bizarre “manifesto” that had been deleted but was recovered on a hard drive by police.  The manifesto seemed related to a screenplay treatment and actual screenplay Final Draft text, which may have been part of the same document.   The manifesto outlined the mental sensations of going through with the compulsive crimes.   (It’s quite different in tone from Elliot Rodger’s;  there is not claim of injustice or entitlement.)  Another copy was found in Twitchell’s home with more missing pieces. (It's likely that thus second copy actually included the screenplay script; it wasn't totally clear from the narrative/) It was hard to understand why it took CSI so long to recover some key evidence (both physical evidence in terms of tools, as well as the screenplay or manifesto)  from his home, however.

Although this happened in Edmonton, it could make for an episode of Gregory Smith’s series “Rookie Blue” on ABC, set in Toronto.

The documentary (more like a real film than a typical Dateline episode, although Keith Morrison did the interviewing) did not get into the differences between Canadian and American criminal court systems. 

The case seems important because it illustrates the dangers of violent fantasy or media for someone who has a serious personality disorder (or "mental illness").  I presume that Twitchell got life without parole.
    
I think there was a similar case with a filmmaker in Pennsylvania, near Hazelton, around 2005.  In Richmond, VA in 1989, police broke up a "snuff" porn film ring before a murder occurred.  There was a "fact or fiction" documentary in 1998 "The Last Broadcast" about merging reality with fantasy in film (concerning the New Jersey Pine Barrens devil and some deaths).

Note the Wikipedia attribution link of Edmonton race site.  I visited the city (and Calgary and Banff) in September 1983.   You can't see the Rockies from Edmonton;  they are just out of sight.  The climate is not as cold as you would think.
 
I'll consider ordering the book by Lilibeun as soon as I have a little more time to read it.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

ABC Nightline covers Facebook and job hunting, then Pat Robertson' remarks on divorce and Alzheimer's


ABC Nightline last night brought on Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook to explain how to use Facebook in job and career hunting.  A lanky Facebook engineer, graduated from Harvard (and “cute!”) demonstrated some of the tools in an outdoor Palo Alto CA cafĂ©.  

Facebook would seem to go head-to-head with Dice on IT jobs, and probably will develop an interface for headhunters.  But the use of Facebook by most major employers makes the subject of “online reputation” even more critical, as well as Facebook’s idea that one should have only one public “identity” to maintain integrity.

People with specific skills can reach potential customers efficiently through Facebook, as Sandberg and the engineer showed. People sometimes pay Facebook to have their resume found and read.  


Nightline later covered the Pat Robertson Affair, that is, his remarks to a caller to his 700 Club on Alzheimer’s Disease and divorce.  The Huffington Post has a typical story on the incident here

I won’t repeat Robertson’s rationalizations here; I disagree and think you could say that about a lot of end-of-life diseases, if you wanted an “out”.   It strikes me that he swerved around a major moral point in particularly Christian thought. That is, we are social creatures, and any one of us could be challenged to provide unconditional love to someone else, and not try to get out of it, even by responsible “choice”. Sustainability of society may depend on the ability to expect that of anyone, even though not everyone will have to deal with it. Longer life spans, or at least the capability to keep them longer, are driving this point home.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Does Anderson Cooper's daytime show "replace" Oprah?

I finally caught the new daytime show “Anderson” at 4 PM Wednesday, with Anderson Cooper “replacing” Oprah Winfrey on ABC, link here.

The show, originating from New York City (where Anderson lives, splitting time with CNN's home in Atlanta and all his international reporting) has a nice backdrop of Central Park. I hope it's real.  (The picture here is mine, taken from a concert in December near Central Park, similar to the view in the show, slightly South of it). 

The style is not so different from Oprah’s, with controversial guests.  Will he invite some musical performers, including classical, later?  

On Wednesday, he covered the topic of babies being abandoned.  He interviewed a young woman who had been found in December 1987 by a police officer in California taking a break by the road, totally by chance.  She did not want to find out who her birth parents were.

The Hollywood Reporter says that the show had medium ratings at the outset, link

There was a furor in 2008 when Nebraska passed a child abandonment amnesty law that had the unintended consequence of encouraging impoverished parents, even from out of state, to leave teen kids. That has since been remedied.  Here is a typical link.

In his promo video, Anderson says New York City is home to him.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ABC: "Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words" airs on Nightline Prime

ABC Primetime Nightline aired “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” last night, a two hour special with Diane Sawyer.


The two hour film featured mostly black-and-white reels from Camelot.

The film builds up to the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Jacqueline discusses candidly the prospect of total nuclear annihilation and her wanting to be with her husband at the end.

Khrushev have vided Kennedy as inexperienced and as someone who could be rolled. Despite his jolly nature, he was essentially a Russian mobster.

There was a lot of attention to births and family events.

Her new books is “Jacquelien Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy”, from Hyperion.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ABC 20-20 reports on heterosexual HIV transmission in Texas

On Sunday night, Sept. 11, 2011, ABC 20-20 broadcast an important report ("How Women United to Stop HIV-Positive Man") on a case in Texas of a number of women who were infected with HIV by a man who did not tell them he was infected and who now faces 45 years in prison in Texas.  The show points out that CDC now reports that 25% of all new HIV cases are female, and that women get HIV infection more readily from men than men from women. (Ironically, the religious right had tried to make a lot of the latter observation in Texas in the mid 1980s when it tried but failed to pass a draconian anti-gay law; I was living in Dallas then.)  The convict is Phillippe Padieu.  The show interviews a number of the women affected.

ABC also broadcast the one hour “Remembrance and Renewal: Ten Years after the 9/11 Attacks”, with the entire episode available for “free” re-viewing  here  (limited commercials at beginning).  Remember, Herman Wouk had titled his WWII epic "War and Remembrance", on ABC television in the 1990s (after "The Winds of War").   But the Bush-Obama War was not fought by everyone.   

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Piers Morgan interviews Cantor-FitzGerald CEO Howard Lutnick, who explains how he rebuilt his company after the catastrophe on 9/11

Friday night, Piers Morgan interviewed Howard Lutnick, ceo of Cantor-FitzGerald, the securities trading firm that had occupied the upper floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

He described how he first found out, while he was on his way in that morning, from unusual rings on his cell phone (when he was taking his son to the first day of kindergarten), and about his experiences with the dust cloud outdoors, and with walking to an employee’s Greenwich Village apartment.

The company lost most of its 700 NYC employees that morning, leaving about 300 other employees left in London and other locations.  Lutnick described the generosity of the remaining staff that was willing to work essentially without compensation for a long time to keep the company operating, as well as the cooperation of the banks.  Today he has about 1600 employees.

He says he could have given up.  The consequences of some things are permanent and have to be lived with. We hear about that kind of despair coming from Japan, which simply cannot make everyone whole after the earthquake.  You have to make up your mind that your life is worth rebuilding.  But he really had not lost everything, like he first thought he had. He had the loyalty of his remaining people. But not everyone has that. 

I suppose the story of his company would make a good POV documentary film. 

He also said that the economy needs to provide much more incentive to invest in “people”.  “Washington is not the engine of the economy.”


Morgan also interviewed 9/11 survivor Lauren Manning, author of “Unmeasured Strength” (2011, Henry Holt). She was burned over 80% of her body when she encountered flames in the WTC lobby; a bystander put the flames out.  

Friday, September 09, 2011

Obama's pre-NFL Opener Speech: "The American Jobs Act"

President Obama came on all network television at 7 PM, to allow for the Packer’s game to start as usual, on a night that parts of the Washington area were being deluged again and people were being rescued from floods on major highways.

Here is the White House fact sheet for the American Jobs Act, link

I wonder about cutting Social Security payroll taxes when the debt debate recently focused so much on how much trouble Social Security is in.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Perry and Romney go head-to-head on MSNBC debate

The GOP had a 100 minute presidential debate last night on MSNBC (I didn’t see it come on CNN).
The most interesting point was that Mitt Romney defended the individual mandate in Massachusetts as the way to go, while criticizing Obamacare as too expensive for potential employers.

The debate was aired at 8 PM EDT from the Reagan Library in California.

There has been controversy over the "fact checking" of both candidates on who created the most jobs.

Newt Gingrich was strident as usual, and Michele Bachmann looked diminished. After all, she thinks it's all right for the federal government to stiff people on its current bills.

Perry called Social Security a "Ponzi Scheme" (aka Madoff), but said he would not jeopardize the benefits of current recipients. 

The story is here

The candidates stayed away from gay issues.  For example, SLDN has recently expressed concern that “conservative” president could re-implement the full military ban (even beyond “don’t ask don’t tell”).
Romney and Perry obviously were the “leading” candidates.  


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

PBS Frontline: "Top Secret America"

Tuesday night, PBS Frontline presented a one-hour documentary by Michael Kirk on the response to 9/11, “Top Secret America”, with link here.

One of the most interesting observations was the report of a proliferation of contractors doing specialized intelligence, often in suburban office complexes in familiar office parks with floors built below ground level.  I recognized at least one of the buildings in Falls Church, VA.

The Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is reported to have created his own intelligence network outside the CIA. 
The end of the show covered briefly the “assassination” of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1 by Navy Seals and Special Forces.

Dana Priest, co-author with William Arkin of “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State” from Little Brown, published Sept. 6, spoke frequently.

A good area to examine would have been the background investigations required to get a job in an area that had access to absolutely everything.  If polygraphs aren't admissible, why can the government use them in intelligence jobs?  What about "No-Lie MRI's" and using MRI's for mind-reading?

The link for the show is here.



Picture: NSA, Fort Meade, MD, halfway between Washington and Baltimore.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"Not as I Pictured": a journalist documents his own chemotherapy (PBS film)

Tonight, Howard University Television (PBS) in Washington DC aired the 56-minute documentary “Not As I Pictured”, by John Kaplan, a photographer (and college professor) who documents his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The link is here

The concept of self-documentation of cancer treatment in pictures is challenging, partly because of the obviously notorious side effects of the chemotherapy.  In fact, almost at the film’s outset he shows himself with half of his chest shaved for various catheters and patches. 

He is relatively young (48), when diagnosed, after a workup for a nodule near his bellybutton. He was never obviously ill before diagnosis.  But search expeditions found two different lymphomas.  The family has a history of multiple myeloma.


His family showed lots of tender mercies. He filmed his own sessions near the toilet, with the worst side effects.  He explains how his scalp hair loss starts suddenly, after about three weeks.   But eventually he goes into remission. Yet, he goes back on preventive sessions of more chemo.

Back in the 1970s, chemotherapy for lymphomas started getting coverage in the media, which documented clusters of Hodgkin’s Disease in some New Jersey communities.  Is a viral cause possible? 

Wikipedia attribution link for clinical picture. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

AC360 covers corporal discipline of children by some religious parents


Anderson Cooper  AC360 has aired  (Sept. 2) a two-part report, “Spare the Rod, spoil the Child” or “Ungodly Discipline”, with Gary Tuchman reporting, featuring Michael Pearl (and wife Debi), authors of “To Train Up a Child” (No Greater Love Ministries).


Pearl says there is a difference between training and discipline, but also says punishment must sting a little physically (must hurt).

The report covered the Independent Baptist Alliance (site) churches as particularly involved.  There was a segment where girls were sent away for training and packed many ub a room and not allowed to use the lavatory, being forced to wear diapers and accept the humiliation when the results are shown, as if there were something godly about advanced toilet training as part of future “family life.”

When I was substitute teaching, the ability to implement discipline was a big issue.  But corporal punishment never happens in northern VA schools, as far as I know. (See the “BillBoushka” blog, July 25, 2007.)

Picture: from the Warrenton, VA Jail Museum, recent day trip

Thursday, September 01, 2011

ABC Nightline Primetime: "Inside the Transgender World" (from "Extraordinary Family" sequence)

On Wednesday Aug. 31, ABC Primetime Nightline aired another episode of (Extra)Ordinary Family, “Inside the Transgender World”.

One interesting story was that of Charles Kane, who changed from a man to a woman and back to a man again.

At age 5, Dyson challenged social expectations with the phrase “I am a princess boy.” This stirred up a nerve ending associated with memories from my own boyhood; I thought being a girl was a "privilege". 

In Ohio, sympathetic parents (who would have been unusual until recent years) hel p a ten year old Jack return to grade school as “Jackie”.  There is a family reunion near Lake Erie.  Jackie will take hormones to prevent male puberty.

Vanessa, 19 goes to Guadalajara, Mexico for surgery she could not afford in the US, and sells herself to “straight men” to help pay for it.  But,  remember Ashton Kutcher's crusade (so passionately put forth on a recent Piers Morgan CNN interview): “Real men don’t buy girls”.

The link is here.