Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NBC Today: The teenage "Jerry Maguire"; the grade school project of experiencing "sacrifice"

The NBC Today show had a couple of interesting segments recently.  One of them is really upbeat, about a teenage “Jerry Maguire”   (a 1996 film with Tom Cruise), a high school senior named Alex Kline in New Jersey, who started a business (“The Recruit Scoop”) connecting basketball players to teams and runs it on Twitter. I don’t know how he can carry on his business at high school, since most schools ban cell phone use.  His work reminds me of that of the baseball geek in “Moneyball”.   Will Brad Pitt make a movie about him?

There was another story this morning, which I couldn’t find online yet, disturbed be.  An elementary school teacher made a project of each kid’s “sacrificing” time every day to help other people. (The report used the word “sacrifice”).  A nine year old girl achieved this by cooking dinner for her parents, who did not live together.  Apparently she had been conceived artificially.  It struck me that the nature of their relationship should not be made “her” problem (one could understand why they didn’t marry).  I wonder how “conservatives” would react to this story.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Macbeth" from PBS "Great Performances"

Modern settings of Shakespeare plays have sometimes been tried, with some controversy. In 2010, PBS Great Performances aired (and subsequently released on DVD) a 158-minute film of “Macbeth”  directed by Rupert Goold, with a self-absorbed (of Spock-like) Patrick Stewart (who could play me) as Macbeth and Kate Fleetwood as a rather laconic Lady Macbeth.

The play is set in a parallel universe where modern Britain (really more 90s-like) has become a fascist police state, as if the Nazis had won WWII and then replaced the monarchy with one they controlled.  It doesn’t really seem like a believable model of what Britain could ever become now (even for those who saw the film “V for Vendetta”).  The film is punctuated with WWII black-and-white footage of soldiers goose-stepping. Much of the film seems to be shot right off a London stage. 

The ghost and apparition scenes at first seem just crazy, until you get the idea that Macbeth is living in a world of his own fantasy, where, by his own admission, his own imagination and narcissism have done him in.
In fact, the film begins slightly out of order, with the Sergeant (rather like a character out of an Alban Berg opera), a handsome and virile John Hywel, lying on a gurney, chest contaminated by electrodes. Later, his own prior-self comes back, again on the gurney, in a ghost scene that seems homoerotic, at least for Macbeth, who performs a bizarre ritual (almost like one from an alien abduction) with him.  (Are we in Eli Roth’s “Hostel”?)  But of course the prophesies (that Macbeth cannot be harmed by a naturally born person but can by one born of Caesarian or by someone not so human) seem rather like existential tests.  In  the end, it seems as though Macbeth was swindled not so much by the witches as his own delusions. In a modern setting, his pistol isn't loaded and MacDuff (Michael Feast) gets to him

The music is by Adam Cork, but in many places resembles Shostakovich, as if the police state were as much Communist as fascist, or as if the two extreme forms of authoritarian tyranny had come together.  At one point, there is a Schubert song with piano, and the opening slow movement of the Mozart A Major Sonata.  
It seems as if the world has rationalized its own kind of morality, where only some people have any place at all.

A stage version of Goode’s treatment can be rented from YouTube for $1.99.

"Macbeth" was taught to seniors when I went to high school (1960).   Even now I don't recall the extent of Macbeth's self-serving violence.  We had to read one other Shakespeare play of our choice (I chose "Hamlet"). 

I recall the 1996 film of "Hamlet", four hours, directed by Kenneth Branagh for Columbia, with stirring postromantic music by Patrick Doyle.  I saw it at the Uptown in Washington DC.  The intermission occurs late, after Hamlet’s famous “honor” speech in the middle of Act 4.  The film is set in the historical period, but is directed to give the effect of a Stephen King horror movie. The “play within a play” in Act 2 makes the point that fiction (or media) can cause others to act and have consequences for the artist.  In the climax, in the palace battle scene, the actors literally swing from the chandeliers.

I am not a fan of Fox’s version (1996) of “Romeo + Juliet” with Leonardo Di Caprio in modern terms; it was shown to English classes when I worked as a substitute teacher.  I recall a ninth grade English teacher explaining the idea that it was acceptable in ancient societies for young women to marry and have babies much younger than it is today. 

The video link from PBS for “Macbeth” is here.

Patrick Stewart talks to Charlie Rose here:

There is a review of a Met production of Verdi’s opera “Macbeth” on the drama blog Jan 12, 2008.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

CNN Presents "Big Hits, Broken Dreams" examines teen concussions in high school sports (football)

Sunday night, Jan. 29, CNN Presents aired “Big Hits, Broken Dreams” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a 40-minute documentary exploring serious head injuries from high school sports, mostly from football hits.  A few students have died, and some have been left with dementia or significant disability normally occurring much later in life, if at all.  Programs are underway to make the tackles or blocks less violent, and to keep students with even mild concussions from returning before completely recovered.

Much of the documentary was shot in North Carolina.

The program underscores the danger our culture has, at least in the past, expected young men to endure to prove themselves competitive and “protective” of others.  It reminds me of the days we had a draft.

I remember, at around age 8, being taken to a session where I was supposed to play football, and refusing. I was the "sissy".  In gym class, we just had touch football.   

There has been some concern over the possibility of concussions from the practice of "heading" in soccer.  I'm not sure that affects professional soccer, as in Europe (Saturday, before going to the West End Theater, I saw part of a soccer match in Barcelona, Spain at a sports bar near GWU in DC; it was vigorous.  I remember a stay in Bilbao, Spain in 2001 when sports bars airing soccer were absolutely packed on a Sunday night.) 

CNN and MSNBC have both reported investigations by Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts played in the 2000 film about her) into a mysterious neurological illness in young women in an areas in western New York State, near the site of a 1970 railroad accident that spilled cyanide and trichloroethene, never properly cleaned up or even reported.  MSNBC link is here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

CNN Presents" cartel activity in Central America, threat to volunteer groups; Aaron Jackson returns with Planting Peace; Marky Mark also on Piers

Tonight “CNN Presents” aired its hour-long “Narco Wars”, about what is happening in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.  The cartels are powerful international businesses.

This is all scary because at least church groups that I know of have gone down to Central America for missions.  One in Guatemala (water engineering), one in Nicaragua (Nacascolo), one in Belize. 

The film said that American demand for illegal drugs leads to crime in poor countries, a murder rate 16 times ours. But one can make the argument that it’s the illegality of drugs that drives the profits.

Tonight, Piers Morgan interviewed “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, who said that kids should not depend on “making it” the way he did without completing their education.

And Don Lemon reported on Aaron Jackson, the CNN Hero who continues to raise money to free kids in Africa of intestinal parasites.

This refers to the “Planting Peace” initiative, shown on this website with an older interview between Jackson and Larry King, link

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jay Leno sued over parody on "Tonight Show" involving Mitt Romney and religious group in India

So a late-night comedy host can get sued over a joke? That’s what happened to Jay Leno for his “joke” about the Sikh’s, on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” (link). 

The San Jose Mercury News weighs in on this here (Tony Hicks).     Tip the waiter, watch your table manners.

TMZ has a story, link, “Is this some kind of sikh joke?”

The “joke” was that Mitt Romney keeps the Golden Temple in Armritsar as a summer home, as if the New Hampshire White Mount lakes weren’t good enough for him. Could Romney handle the Tuckkerman Ravine trail up Mt. Washington?

NewsXLive from India has many youtube videos on this:

Mr. Leno’s comments are protected by the First Amendment in the US and were intended as “satire” against the GOP presidential candidates.

I usually catch some of the night shows just before bed.  They seem to reduce all seriousness to absurdity.  I can remember one in 1978, just after a personal breakup, and being taken by a comment that everything in the world reduces to money. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On "Days", Will's behavior gets more disturbing

Monday, the “Days of our Lives” episode ended with a disturbing image of Will (Chandler Massey) spitting at his own reflection in the mirror, just after a discussion in a pub where Sonny discussed being out and open and even starting a gay bar in Salem, and Will as asked obliquely about the reaction of his own family.

Earlier, Chad and Gabi had played games with Kate about the modeling job, and Gabi complained that Will wasn’t very interested in her, totally oblivious to the apparent ambiguity of Will’s sexual orientation, which the soap is using to tease viewers these days.

But Will’s self-disgust may not be about sexuality so much as his realizing he has allowed EJ to corrupt him completely.  He’s supposed to become a doppleganger for EJ and give up his own identity, at least until EJ wins the election.

On Tuesday, it seems like EJ and Abe are setting up a "cheating scandal" about seeing the debate questions in advance.  Like knowing the debate questions in advance would really affect your "performance".    It sounds like the "Recall" crisis on the qualification exams for radiologists.   In the meantime, Nicole tries to further corrupt Will.
“Days” and “General Hospital” are still standing, even though DOOL has gotten pretty silly.  “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” are gone.  “Passions” disappeared a while back.  This is a genre the networks are having difficulty sustaining. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

CBS 60 Minutes airs its own "Into the Wild"

Sunday night, CBS “60 Minutes Presents” gave us “Into the Wild”, a three-part short short documentary about wildlife.  Remember, Paramount had given us a film by the same name where a young man runs into tragedy and starves while roughing it in Alaska.'

The first part of the CBS film showed a mass wildlife migration around Lake  Tanganika, showing mostly grazing animals chased by a few big cats.  Because of habitat encroachment by man, CBS predicts that many of these animals could be gone by 2050.

Next the documentary showed the “language” of elephants, which is quite specific as to relationships among the elephants, but doesn’t have grammar per se. 

Finally, it went on a journey looking for chimpanzees – but the ordinaries, not the bonobos.   As people have learned from tragedies, chimps in the home do not substitute for “children”.   

Wikipedia attribution link for map of lake Tanganyika.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

ABC 20-20 covers cowardice of Concordia captain

On Friday January 20, Chris Cuomo presented the complete update on “Inside the Costa Concordia Disaster”, where the sight of an overturned cruise liner reminds one of the movie(s) “The Poseidon Adventure,” the first on which I saw on Times Square in 1974 (I remember the song about the Morning After).

The most disturbing part of the story is the moral cowardice of the captain. And he had chosen this employment with its risks.  People don’t always get to choose their challenges.  (Rick Santorum said that to Piers Morgan last night.)

The show also talked about passenger behavior online, and how cruise companies have to deal with it.  It’s a real problem when there is a norovirus epidemic.

I've never taken a cruise.  I actually want to spend time seeing a new destination, not in open water. And I could not survive being dumped overboard. 

Saturday morning, Barbara Corcoran discussed online “curb appeal” when selling houses with Lester Holt on NBC’s Today. 

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Concordia disaster. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Personal improvement show "The Revolution" fills space left by ABC Soap; Gingrich hits "open marriage" charge out of the park on CNN debate

Ty Pennington (the “Extreme Makeover” host) and Tim Gunn cohost the new daytime self-improvement show “The Revolution”, with ABC link here. The show replaces the soap opera “One Life to Live”, suddenly.  (Likewise, "The Chew", about food and cooking, has replaced "All My Children".)   It goes against Nate Berkus in the DC area.  To contradict Rick Warren, the tagline for the show is "it is about you."  And it's not about liberty, equality, fraternity. 

Today, the show started with some advice about perspiration and BO.  Yes, it gets personal. There was advice to wear only “natural fabrics” to reduce perspiration. (I once got a mainframe email from a coworker about this problem, suddenly, in 1987. “Please shower before you come to work in the morning.” Yes, really.  I deleted it right away.)

The columnist Michelle Singletary, who is another “Suze Orman”, appeared to talk about finances. “Live below your means”.

Many clips in the show will deal with exercise and fitness and sometimes weight loss.  

Last night, Piers Morgan interviewed Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and Carter made some comments about the tendency for Newt Gingrich to play the race card, under the table.

A former spouse of Gingrich is due to do an interview with Brian Ross soon (about her turning down his request for "open marriage" -- Huffington  video), and that could finish his GOP candidacy even before the SC primary. Well, not so fast. Gingrich came out swinging on the first question from Jon King last night on CNN.  (I was a little quick on the draw on this one, having to add this video embed below after first doing the post; I heard Gingrich's swing as I was going out the door last night.)

Last night, also, Anderson Cooper (“keeping them honest”) allocated a lot of his broadcast to the ship “Titanic” disaster in Italy.  He didn’t give any time to SOPA.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anderson has the "real conversation" with a new, successfully self-published Minnesota author, and talks to the one man "sperm bank"; On "Days", Chad "gets it"

In the past, Anderson Cooper has criticized self-publishing, but today he interviewed successful self-published novelist Amanda Hocking, who has almost created a new genre, “paranormal romance”.

I glanced on Amazon. She has quite a volume of published material, some of it very inexpensive on Kindle.  She is now working with St. Martin’s Press.   This sounds more like traditional “horror” than sci-fi horror or “existential physics” which interests me.

She says she was never able to find an agent, but when she self-published her first book, she was able to sell about two books a day starting out, which is a lot for a self-published author.

Spy thriller novelist (like Amanda, from Minnesota) Vince Flynn started with self-publishing in 1997 and now has fifteen novels, all trade-published, and finally is about to have a movie.  I met him at a booksigning  in Minneapolis in 1997 (for "Term Limits").  Anderson -- consider inviting Vince to your show.  

I guess this gives me a kick in the pants to get my own "spy-sci-fi" novel out.  More about that soon.  One problem -- the latest spin from theoretical cosmological physics is that not even information (let alone light and matter) can escape from a black hole -- in the same universe.  It has to go to another universe through a white hole (or maybe start a big bang).  Consciousness is information -- and I think that physics is telling us that Heaven is in another universe.  I don't want to believe it.  But that could mean our universe gets "information" (other conscious entities) from other universes all the time.  

Other novelists have been successful when young.  Christopher Paolini’s fantasy "Eragon" became a Fox film quickly.

Today, Anderson also interviewed Trent Arsenault, the “one man sperm bank” already on 20-20.  Trent says he is still a “virgin”.  He says he has contracts drawn up to absolve him of any parental responsibility or custody opportunity.  When the Sun starts to expand and humans have to find another solar system, his genes will be common, and mine will not exist. 

The link for the episode is here

Today, “Days of our Lives” got cute.  Chad DiMera (Casey Jon Deidrick) did a male modeling session, and one has to say that he (or his chest) “got it”.  Kate really wanted to rub it in (or see someone else do it, literally).  The actor’s “legally licensed” pictures on imdb come close. (Sorry, I don't own the right to reproduce them here.) DOOL seems to want to go somewhere with this. 

Pictures: quick trips to Occupy (today), Health Expo (Saturday) in DC.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Miss America starts year of service; Golden Globes has its quirky moments

Monday morning, ABC GMA was interviewing Miss America 2012, who is Laura Kaeppeler, Miss Wisconsin, after the January 14 pageant in Las Vegas, broadcast on ABC.

She told GMA that her suitcases are packed for living away from home a whole year, for a year of “service”, starting on Martin Luther King Day, a national day of service.  She says she will work with children of incarcerated parents.

The basic web reference is here

I can remember watching this in black and white back in the 1950s, with Bert Parks.  In retrospect, it sounds a bit silly (and, by modern standards of thought, exploitive).

Sunday night, the Golden Globes (site ) took over on NBC, with Ricky Gervais making his pot-shots (as Natalie Portman walked on stage, he said, “don’t put family first”).  “The Descendants” and “The Artist” practically won everything.  From the nominations, The Globes liked Ryan Gosling’s performance in “Ides of March” more than in “Drive”, the latter of which is much more popular with the public.  Ashton Kutcher was there, clean-shaven, on time from his brunch Sunday where he accidentally invited all of his twitter followers. 

I tweeted last night that the Right Wing could make a sequel to "The Artist" and call it "The Dilettante".  (A chapter in one of my novel drafts is called "The Artist" but is based on someone much more stable than the character in the silent movie.)  And It could follow "The Descendants" with "The Progeny" or "The Lineage" and then "Eternal Demographic Summer". 

Gervias called Madonna "just like a virgin", which she hit out of the park. "Why don't you come over and do something about it."  

And Gervais said "The Globes are like the Oscars without esteem".  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

CNN Presents: doctor certification "cheating"; mold in schools; more on Anonymous from Amber Lyon

Saturday, Jan. 14, “CNN Presents” was indeed most interesting, and I’ll present the material LIFO, that is, “Last In, First Out”.

The last segment presented a specific problem, of where radiologists in many teaching hospitals using a system of “recalls” to crib for specialty exams. The “recalls” are written by other residents immediately after taking the exams from memory and saved on servers.  Some consider this to be cheating.

In many universities, professors actually store previous years’s exams. In my experience, even with an honor code, it’s not “cheating” to look at a previous year’s exam.  It would seem that the certification board for radiologists should change the exam more from year to year.  Teachers regularly study past exams for PRAXIS qualification tests.  AP teachers help students prepare for SAT and AP tests with practice exams.
The CNN story focused particularly on a case of an Army resident at the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. The officer objected to being asked to use “recalls” and failed the exam, and is being forced out of the Army.

Here’s a typical story on the issue. 
The middle section of the report concerned toxic substances in schools.  Since many NYC schools are built over old industrial sites, many have various toxic chemicals in small amounts. But the worst stories seemed to be those of schools in Connecticut and Pennsylvania where kids get sick because of mold. In a couple of cases, teachers were homeschooling their own kids rather than send them to the schools they teach in. Here’s a link.

No More School Mold has this story from San Diego Insider Magazine about San Diego schools:

The “first movement” was a 20-minute report by Amber Lyons on the unorganized group “Anonymous”.  Amber focused on their recent support of the Occupy movement and the refer-backs to the movie “V for Vendetta” (with the mask from the WB movie from 2006).  Maybe the people are like “Lisbeth” from “Dragon Tattoo” or Nolan from “Revenge”.   Lyons reports that members of the group have singled out police officers who turned on demonstrators and released their personal information, a process called “doxing”.  She also discussed the group’s support of police “victim” Scott Olson.  The supposed ties to Julian Assange and support of Bradley Manning have already been covered in the press widely. Before the broadcast, in the previous hour, Amber Lyons mentioned the group’s opposition to SOPA. That’s misleading, because very moderate and conservative groups on society oppose this kind of indirect Internet censorship, too.

Here is CNN’s main reference.

The Media Research Center considered Amber’s coverage “positive” (link).  Here is Mediate’s story, also.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ABC 20-20 airs report on free sperm donations by men; weigh in on gov't regulation, ethics; "Revenge" actress dedicated to Haiti rebuilding

Last night, ABC 20-20 aired a special on sperm donors, also an interview with Madonna, in a combined show called “Madonna and New Sex”.

Most of the report concerned free sperm donors, which women who cannot conceive are looking for online. The report first depicted an encounter in Maryland between the altruistic Drew and a Wyoming couple in Maryland motel, and showed how the process works. No physical contact occurs between the donor and the woman. The couple was a family that had taken in 60 foster children and had adopted 2.

Then it switched to “Trent”, a lean, tattooed man in his early 30s, who had fathered 14 children through free sperm. Trent followed a diet which he said increased his sperm count. He said his count was four times average. HHS has sent him a letter telling him to cease and desist donations. The question is raised whether the government should regulate free sperm inseminations, when it cannot regulate the sexual activity itself.

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I feel the other way about this; I have never been interested in having biological descendants, and I don't feel generous with my own body parts (I'm rather sensitive about it) . More recent thinking about “generativity” and sustainability is starting to raise new moral questions about a putative obligation to have one’s own skin (or genes) into the future after one is gone.

MSNBC has a story about Trent on MSNBC here. Trent Arsenault's own site is here.

The interview with Madonna raised the question over whether Lady Gaga has copied Madonna, who also has some advice to "younger" men about marriage.

On Nightline, Madeleine Stowe from “Revenge” made a pitch for work in Haiti by “Artists for Peace and Justice”, link here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Extreme Makeover, Home Edition" builds 7 homes in Joplin MO (season finale?)

My understanding that the show from Joplin MO tonight was the finale (season and maybe forever), with this "goodbye" link for ABC's "Extreme Makeover, Home Edition".  Here is the ABC cancellation  (website url) story, after nine seasons.  I would have expected good ratings on this show!

Tonight, the showed depicted seven homes rebuilt by volunteers in Joplin.  They looked a bit like gingerbread homes from "Once Upon a Time".  The area around was flat, treeless and cleared out (the Ozark mountains are not far away; my last visit the area took place in October 1983).

There was also a portable basketball and soccer field.  And one couple came back for its home just married.

Ty Pennington, now 47, says he used to have ADHD.   The old team spirit and enthusiasm was very much at hand tonight.  This sort of volunteering seems to require a long commitment of time and sweat, and often out-of-town.

Wikipedia attribution link for Joplin tornado path aerial map (p.d.)

(This blog has a review of a film about Greensburg, KS April 25, 2009. The disaster movies blog has a review of "Tornado Alley" Jan. 11.  )

Note: The word "addition" in the posting URL is due to a typo, corrected to "edition".

On "Days", Will learns you sell your identity (to the Devil) to survive, and that "you represent me"

Today, on “Days of our Lives”, EJ  (British actor James  Scott) toys with Will (Chandler Massey) some more, and sends him on an errand to pick up the keys for a sports car that it turns out EJ is giving Will. EJ wonders why Will assumed he was being sent to do something “illegal”.

Elvis (that is, EJ, who is running for office, something most of us don't have the money or fight to do) lectures Will that “when you are out and about, you are representing me”.  That’s why Will needed a snazzy car. Even to drive on the Ohio Turnpike or buzz among the towns on Highway 13 (in case Disney decides to make "I Am Number 5"). Will no longer exists on his own; he becomes absorbed as part of EJ.  Yes, it sounds like what happens to Faust in Boito's opera.  There's another common line on this soap, "Who are you working for?"  It's a sign that people don't own their own lives, but are beholden to the local mob. 

People used to talk like that when I started my work career around 1970.  Your employer was going to tell you just what kind of car it was appropriate for someone in your status to own. At least a Buick?

I’ve always found the idea that you live your life representing someone else’s agenda and even identity one of the most repulsive of all.   No, when you represent someone else, you can't have your own blog(s).  Your boss owns your Facbook and Twitter presence, too. Is that sense of disgust with playing Babbitt part of Ron Paul’s philosophy?

Of course, many people don’t have the “luxury” of doing anything else. 
I suppose that’s what’s  behind EJ’s desire to break Will’s sanctimonious sense of personal morality, after catching EJ with Sami (his mother) in bed.
As for the opening scene – Brady (Eric Martsolf) –my goodness, those gams are too ladylike.
The show today was interrupted by a two-minute power outage. It seems as though 45 mph wind gusts after a normal (and overdue) January cold front are too much in suburban neighborhoods with beloved old trees.
Here’s another rumor about Will, link

And here’s another story from “Greg in Hollywood”, link.

"One Life to Live" on ABC ends today after 44 years (the "author" [not "The Artist"] is speculating about her sequel, and she throws her paper draft on a tied-up man Victor in the last scene) and some characters move "as they are" to "General Hospital". (Just before the last scene, McBain (Michael Easton) arrested Victor's supposed killer in bed; details on "Inside TV" here.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ABC's "Revenge" gets into some issues about journalism, "dead hand"

Last night’s episode of ABC’s “Revenge”, titled “Infamy”, touched on an important topic: author/journalist integrity.

The best line is at the end when Nolan (Gabriel Mann) says “Bad girl”.  He had taken author Mason Treadwell  (Roger Bart). attracted to him (he wants to write a biography of Nolan, as if he had invented another Facebook), to dinner so Emily (aka original Amanda before the “identity switch”) could carry out her latest but impulsive act in her vendetta.  Treadwell was unusual in his habits: he worked with paper and typewriters only and didn't like to make a copy until he was done.  Unlikely story. 

Emily is upset that Treadwell’s book on her father doesn’t exonerate him. Treadwell, in heavy debt, has come under the influence of Victoria and must hide some facts in his book to protect himself.  I guess
There’s also the concept of a young man (Daniel) not being able to get a hold of a trust until he marries (or turns 30).  “Requiring marriage” is a concept that comes up in movies and literature all the time (the British call controlling behavior of grown kids from the grave "the dead hand").  It seems still as though the “powers that be” in society want to regulate sexual intercourse of their dependents.

This series does have a lot of “meat” in it, and a bit of a hook.  The characters are naughty but well drawn and inspire a hook.  In general, however, major television series these days are not as original as they used to be.
Yes, I liked “The Event” and “Flash Forward”.  On the other hand, “The Firm” is a bit of a retread.  Hollywood generally is resisting creativity in the broadcast environment, going for the easy cash cows.
Too bad, Nolan needs a better boyfriend than Tyler (who had tied him up and is now in jail.

Small Scoop has an interesting discussion on last night here.

Connor Paolo (Declan) “models” good clothes on YouTube

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Once Upon a Time" hits on moral dimensions of "courage"

I’m not the biggest fan of ABC’s “One Upon a Time”, but Sunday night, in episode 8 “Desperate Souls”, a moral lecture that Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) receives in the fairy tale alternate universe caught my ear.  He was told that no woman wants to be married to a “coward” and that failure to serve is the worst of all moral evils.  All of that reminds me of the days of the Vietnam era draft – and student deferments. And I remember we read "The Red Badge of Courage" in high school. 

Emma finds out you have to pay your dues to run for office in Storybrooke – but many people see merely running and trying to raise money as enough of a rite of passage.  There’s an impressive house fire scene near the end – and it’s scary; it can happen. 

Link for the episode is here 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Ben Flajnik "reveals" on ABC's "The Bachelor": gets to monopolize 18 women

Well, I wasn’t a competitive enough young male in my day to pull anything off like Bachelor Ben in ABC’s reality show “The Bachelor”, link (website url) here

Tonight Ben Flajnik took his guests to his wine ranch near Sonoma, CA.   Maybe he’s seen the movie “Blood to Wine” (review on my Movies blog Dec. 10, 2010). 

The kids in the hometown put on a fairy tale play (not as existential as ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”), and Ben dresses up in several costumes designed by the screenwriting middle school kids.  (A good introduction to show biz for eighth graders.)  But in one scene, he disrobes to, well, a bathing suit.  Non of the ten women really notice – “thmooth”.   The mandatory swimming pool encounters with individual women follow. Was Ben ready to compete like Michael Phelps?

The concept of the show (as well as “Bachelorette” – part of the process) seems silly.  Maybe the show should let a gay man pick the bachelors.  That kind of inspection and quality control is the root of homophobia, perhaps.  (That’s what the 80s mag “Christopher Street” would have suggested, when writing about Ronald Reagan’s performance in “John Loves Mary”.)

At the end, Ben gives out some roses -- as pink slips -- and Jenna the Blogger cries about not being selected. Bad sport. Unbelievable!

Here’s the Hollywood Gossip blog on him; look at the picture in the Oct. 2 posting. 

 Picture: Not from show, but what does it mean when a house gets "TP-ed" on a Saturday night.  

Sunday, January 08, 2012

John Grisham serializes his own sequel to "The Firm" on NBC

A television series as a sequel to a movie sounds like a “very natural thing”, if unoriginal.

John Grisham’s novel “The Firm”, about an eager young lawyer hired unknowingly to represent a front for the mob, was gripping, with its world of goons and fibbies, and reference to “mandatory marriage” on the first page. The 1993 movie for Paramount with Tom Cruise as Mitch McDeere held to the novel, and even included a scene on the Washington Mall the day after the 1993 March blizzard.

The NBC series (starting with a 2-hour pilot Sunday Jan. 8)  imagines McDeere has come out of witness protection ten years later, and has been trying to set himself as a solo lawyer with a membership in an “association” rather than as a typical lawyer tethered to a film.

In the opening scene, the goons are after him.  Then the first Pilot episode goes back a couple of time segments, to present his last attempt on his own, where he gets a juvenile off from being tried as an adult for a playground beating, while having to deal with the victim’s family with convoluted maneuvers.

The link is here. The series will continue Thursday nights. 

I still wonder about the “creativity” of writing for television.  But author John Grisham is an executive producer. He also likes baseball. Maybe he ought to get involved running the Nats (whom I hope will sign Prince Fielder).  

Saturday, January 07, 2012

"Culture Click" with Nzinga gets into quirky, body issues

On Saturday mornings, in some cities, some ABC affiliates offer “Culture Click” with Nzinga Blake.

This morning there was a list of the ten bad habits people have.  This includes eating from other people’s plates, and even burping.  (A coworker once got after me about that back in Dallas, in 1980, saying I should say “excuse me”.)  She also mentioned the Japanese objection to showing the bottoms of shoes. 

Later, she talked about the baths in ancient Rome.  Maybe the Romans invented soap, but they didn’t use it on themselves, even before using public baths.  They put oil on their bodies and then shaved them, everywhere, she said.  I’ve never hear that one before.

The link for the show is here.

Friday, January 06, 2012

ABC 20-20 airs report on prosecution of parents in Michigan whose autistic kid had learned "facilitated communication" and who was duped into making accusations

Tonight, ABC 20-20 presented a harrowing story (“Miracle or Nightmare?”), by Thomas Berman and Jonathan Balthasar, about the prosecution of the father in the Wendrow family in the suburbs of Detroit for alleged abuse after their autistic daughter’s messages through “facilitated communications” were misconstrued as accusations.  ABC had reported on “FC” on Primetime Live back in 1992. The child types his thoughts when the therapist or parent or facilitator holds the child’s hand in a certain way.

The technical explanation for law enforcement therapy was something called “savior complex” which was demonstrated in the broadcast. 

Aislinn did very well, able to read at grade level in eighth grade.  The police charges were made after a relatively untrained facilitator said that Aislinn had communicated allegations of abuse, at school.  But then investigators (or “forensic interviewers”) incorrectly got more accusations.  Eventually it would become apparent that Aislinn’s communications even in ordinary matters were not her own as much as teachers had thought they were.  FC was not working the way it had been touted.  She really can’t spell or express thoughts; the facilitators were making up answers, as on a Ouija board.

The 13 year old brother was actually interviewed by West Bloomfield police, who tried to manipulate him into lying to prove the prosecution’s case.  The police actually lied to the boy.

A judge was able to determine the police charges as incorrect with special tests, where she communicated jibberish.

There is a lawsuit against the police, but it is very difficult to prove police misconduct at the standard required to win a civil judgment. 

An earlier 2001 film, “Just Ask My Children” (with Gregory Smith, directed by Arvin Brown) showed how overzealous law enforcement (this time in California, egged on by prosecutors with their own political careers “at stake”) jeopardizes parents.

One can be cynical about these cases.  Having children involves big risks.  No matter many people in the modern individualistic world decide not to have children.  Collectively, that could destroy society. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Penn Jillette calls "Celebrity Apprentice" an "improvised soap opera"

Sean Daly has a short blurb on p. 64 of the Jan. 5 New York Post, "'Reality TV is bull,' says 'Apprentice' star", link here.   The story refers to magician Penn Jillette and his comments about Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice".

The original "The Apprentice", however, was all for real.  Just ask Troy McClain.  Remember his act of courage "for the team" in the first season?  And the boardroom firings were real.  And the post-mortem analysis of job interview techniques was helpful to many people.

Penn & Teller's "BS" site  on Showtime is here.

(Incidentally: My review of PBS Nova's "Deadliest Volcanoes" is on my "disaster movies" blog yesterday ("threats to freedom).)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

PBS Frontline airs short documentary on opium and child trade in Afghanistan

Tuesday Jan. 3, 2012 most of PBS Frontline was allocated to airing “Opium Brides”. This refers to the practice of Taliban opium smugglers taking young daughters and other family members from Afghan farmers in remote areas when they cannot pay “debts” after the new Afghan government (under NATO auspices) destroys opium poppy plants in the farmers’ fields.

The PBS link is here.

“The World” also has a perspective on the documentary here

The program would reinforce Ashton Kutcher's campaign, "real men don't buy girls." 

There is a touching scene where an opium-addicted Afghan farmer tells his seven-year-old son not to follow in his footsteps.

Here is the preview. “A crop is destroyed, and so is a family.”

An earlier segment questioned the practice of using drones in the region. 

Monday, January 02, 2012

NBC Rock Center documents how lobster divers are injured by their work in Central America

Tonight, NBC's Rock Center presented a disturbing episode about injuries to divers for lobsters off the coast of Hondouras, in a story by Catherine Olian.

Many of the injuries are hyperbaric, related to "The Bends", subjecting bodies to overly abrupt changes in pressure, resulting in many complications and infections.  A 31-year-old diver dies.

However, for westerners to stop eating lobsters would not help, as the divers need the jobs.

The show also showed the clean-up of New York's Times Square New Year's morning before dawn.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Meet the Press interviews Santorum, who is rapidly gaining credibility as a socially conservative GOP candidate

New Years Day, “Meet the Press” on NBC aired a 1:1 between David Gregory and GOP candidate Rick Santorum.

Santorum is gaining credibility, and, among the more socially conservative candidates, is the most likely to get the nomination.  Bachmann is too eratic, and Rommey is holding fast as a moderate (keeping religion out), and Ron Paul “MD” still talks like a libertarian, whatever his alleged ties to the Constitution Party.
Santorum tried to defend vigorously an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment before the Senate in the summer or 2004.

Santorum would be more likely (than Romney) to undo the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” or even reinstitute an absolute ban on gays in the military with “asking”.

Santorum’s social conservatism comes closer to my concerns, about how it is willing to intrude upon the lives of those who are “different” and make those lives subservient to majoritarian concerns about keeping extended families loyal and together.  This is closer to how part of the evangelical community regards homosexuality.

Santorum is reported by AlterNet as favoring letting states ban contraception! (link) -- he speaks of violating things in the sexual realm "as things are supposed to be". 

After the how, NBC had a half-hour “Press Extended” and other candidates are interviewed briefly about Iowa.  Bachmann seems to be toning down her rhetoric, saying marriage is between a man and a woman and that traditional families should raise children (against gay adoption, maybe) but now says she has “respect for all people as individuals”.  

On the supplementary half hour, Newt Gingrich admitted that he had trouble dealing with "real people" with "real feelings" or something like that. So do I.

2012 is still going to be a critical year for those who are "different".