Monday, July 30, 2012

NBC offers live Olympics online; Piers Morgan interviews "the swimmers" (Sartor Resartus)

NBC has been criticized for taping and rebroadcast a lot of the Olympic activity during prime time, for ratings reasons – after all it has paid hundreds of millions for what sounds like a losing proposition.  (I was actually an employee of NBC in NYC 1974-1977.)  

Most events would start before dawn US time and continue into early afternoon, due to time difference (4 hours for US EDT).

People are mad about the spoilers on social media before they get a chance to watch the delayed broadcasts during prime time.

NBC also aired a promo revealing a spoiler for Missy's swimming performance before the actual primetime replay aired.  Big goof!

You can check out Michael Hielstand’s article on USA Today Monday at this link
I tried the “live video” (NBCOlympics) site here

The site asks you to identify your cable subscription provider. If it is the same as your high speed Internet, you’ll be able to watch immediately.

On a Windows 7 machine (converted from Vista), Shockwave kept crashing on Google Chrome, but worked, although slowly, on Internet Explorer.

On a MacBook, the connection worked right away with no problems.  You see a brief greeting from Carson Daly. Then I got to watch women’s beach volleyball.

Earlier tonight, Piers Morgan, on CNN, interviewed the mother of Ryan Lochte, and showed Ryan’s strengthening drills with old tires and various heavy household items. Then Piers did a half-hour interview with Michael Phelps, who remained quite low-key in his manner.  Phelp’s face sometimes shows four years of time, with furrows and lines that disappear when he relaxes.  He sported a neatly cropped still black beard, the only non-scalp male plumage that swimmers are allowed to keep.  He told a touching story of his support of a young cancer patient.  But Piers did show a photo of that South Carolina “bong” shot.  Phelps said that he will “retire” after the 2012 Olympics, and that after a six-month layoff after 2008, it took him 18 months to get back into shape.  

At Phelps’s current age, he may have the best endurance possible, but not the best sprint speed.

Phelps says he has been in love (with women) a couple times, and that breaking up felt terrible. And it seems as though the women now are performing as well as the men in swimming (without as much shaving).  

Morgan has also interviewed 1972 swimming champ Mark Spitz on his show. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CNN's Blitzer interviews Navy admiral on success of DADT repeal; another documentary on Colorado tragedy

Saturday night, Wolf Blitzer, in his Situation Room on CNN, interviewed Admiral Bill McRaven at the Aspen Security Conference.

McRaven answered a question on the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, and indicated he had not heard of a single problem since its repeal, including any issues with “privacy” in military quarters, which Blitzer brought up.

Blitzer also asked what kinds of qualities make for a good Navy Seal, and besides fitness, McRaven said, “thinking on your feet”.   Seals range in age from 19 to late 30s.

CNN Presents last night aired another special on the Colorado tragedy, “Madness at Midnight”, with Don Lemon as host. (There’s no specific link for it yet.)  The documentary did honor the heroes and victims, and gave some more details on Holmes’s background at the University of Colorado, but it is still quite unclear when he really began to make his horrific plans.  This could have started much sooner than we thought.  Witnesses say he never talked to anyone.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

ABC Nightline covers story of Chinese Bird's Nest architect Weiwei (now a dissident)

NBC is televising the Olympics and started with the opening ceremony Friday and continued with cycling this morning.  (Plenty of No-No, maybe?)

 But ABC Nightline ran a report on Chinese artist and now-dissident Ai Weiwei, who was a major designer of Beijing’s Birds Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics.  Weiwei  would encounter the wrath of Chinese authorities when, with blogging, he tried to expose shoddy construction practices exposed by China’s Sichuan earthquake.  At one point, police entered his home at 3 AM and beat him up.  He was fined over $2.4 million, and Chinese people have donated about $1 million of the fine.

Wewei has returned to his art studio and to using Twitter, which doesn’t reach China.

The link for the ABC story and video is here.

I’ll see and review the Sundance film “Ai Wewei: Never Sorry” , by Alison Klayman, soon.

I have a story about Weiwei on my “International Issues” blog July 6, 2011.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Days of our Lives" prepares 2-week hiatus with a major explosion that could eliminate many of the characters

Well, during Friday’s “Days of our Lives”, NBC flashed a banner “warning” us that the soap would not air for the next two weeks, during the Olympics in London.

And it provided a “climax” in the last minute to create a cliffhanger.

For some time, the psychopath Andrew has been keeping Melanie in a sewer tunnel, which seems to have loose wires and a gas leak.   A minor pre-explosion causes Andrew to be trapped.  Gabi actually tries to free him and can’t, but when Chad arrives, Chad lifts the beam off.   (I think the girls should have gone and leet him rot.)  Simultaneously, a fundraiser with most of Days’s characters goes on in a ballroom above.  And Roman looks for EJ, who has escaped home detention and is running with Sami.

Will really seems to be caught on the dark side (because of EJ’s counter blackmail) and keeps playing dumb.
But, at the very end of the hour, the gas line finally catches fire, resulting in cascading explosions likely to be fatal to many cast members.  We have to wait for two weeks to find out what happened.  Is Days getting rid of more actors?  At least, in a fantasy world, the badly injured come back good as new.

As for Will, I actually know someone, of college or grad school age, in the DC gay community who looks and acts exactly like him.  (I won’t put the picture here to give him away.  I don’t think he would play Will’s blackmail games and seek “power” this way.)

The detailed synopses are still available at “Soap Opera Fan”, although they are not quite as long now as they were when Dustin Cushman ran it.  There is a story that says that Dustin sold the site in 2008, link here
The likelihood that Chad (Casey Deidrick) survived in one piece seems remote.  Chad is now one of the most likeable characters.   

By the way, the episode Tuesday July 24 started by showing Will and Sonny together, working on restoring the video of EJ from Sami's thumbdrive, but lounging around with their shirts open as if they had just been intimate.  That's an interesting, if low-keyed, approach to showing their relationship.  A young man like Will who stays away from the "dark side" would be nothing less than a Clark Kent or Peter Parker.  "With great power comes great responsibility." 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Piers Morgan pitches knuckleballs to Michael Moore

Tuesday night, Piers Morgan interviewed Michael Moore on CNN, on about the tenth anniversary of Moore’s documentary “Bowling for Columbine”, which I saw at the Uptown in Minneapolis when it first appeared.  (Somehow the name “Michael Moore” sounds too much like “Michael Morse”.)

Moore was critical of the selfishness o Americans. “I got mine and you got yours.”  But he put his solutions in terms of public enterprises, particularly publicly owned and universal health care (as in his film “Sicko” (Movie reviews, June 29, 2007).
In fact, social conservatives have been urging “the common good” from the “complementarity side”, urging that people learn to be social creatures before defining their own personal goals, and that they learn to find real value in other people when they meet needs.  It’s a personal priority thing, not a government thing. 
Then there is the objectivist view (as with the Ayn Rand documentary reviewed Monday on Movies) that says you can only help people when you first become productive first.  Should you like what you do before you like people?  The same question comes up in “The Lion of Judah”, on the movies blog today.

The story on the Piers interview is   here

Tonight, on AC360, there was a story of an orca attack at an entertainment pool.  If orca’s are people with seaworthy (smooth) bodies, we have no right to hold them in captivity.  They are aliens on our planet, with about our same level of intelligence and individual self-awareness.   

Monday, July 23, 2012

"The Exonerated" from Court TV

The Exonerated” is a CourtTV 90 minute “stage play”, directed by Bob Balaban in 2005, offered on DVD by Monterey Video (and Chicago Films).

Five men and one woman who had been wrongly convicted and put on death row tell their stories.

One man (played by Brian Dennehy) was detained two hours after his parents were found dead, and grilled into “confession”.  Eventually it would turn out to have been committed by a gang member as part of an initiation. 

A woman, Sunny (Susan Sarandon) was stuck in Florida when a car broke down and drawn into a chase. She thought “they” would correct their mistake.

Another man (Kerry Mack, played by Aidan Quinn) was accused of murdering and violating a woman because he was a “homosexual”, an absurd idea, but the southern prosecutor (Mississippi) goes on a rant.
Then he had to face prison after the other inmates “found out”.  Then when the man’s brother is murdered, the culprit gets off with a light sentence because of the prejudice against the family.

Another prisoner, after exoneration, cannot get a racing license back because he still has a conviction on his record and “lied”.

Some prisoners had trouble getting exonerated despite DNA evidence.

At the end, some of the real people spoke about their experiences.

This art form is called "documentary drama". Did this TV series ever have a film festival showing?

The link for The Innocence Project is here

Also appearing are Delroy Lindo, Danny Glover, and David Brown Jr.  Lyle Lovett sings “Amazing Grace” during the closing credits.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Piers Morgan interviews Supreme Court Justice Scalia

On Wednesday July 18 (replayed on July 21), CNN’s Piers Morgan interviewed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, along with Bryan Garner, co-author with Scalia on “Reading Law: Interpretation of Legal Texts” (published by West in 2012, expensive).

The transcript for the interview is here.

Scalia kept his personal opinions to himself in the interview. On “Roe v. Wade” Scalia said that the Constitution simply says nothing on abortion, so he thinks the Courts have nothing to say if the states want to regulate it through the political process.

Morgan didn’t get into Scalia’s views of “morality” as in his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) making a bizarre bridge between sodomy laws and gay marriage.

Scalia, 76, said he is a law-abiding citizen but has gotten speeding tickets, but not recently.

 Scalia took Morgan on a guided tour of the Supreme Court.

By the way, on TV ads, Mitt Romney is excerpted as saying "Planned Parenthood, gotta get rid of that."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

ABC 20-20 offers theory on the Aurora perpetrator's psyche

Friday night, July 20, ABC “20-20” presented a full report “Tragedy in Colorado: Movie Theater Massacre” about the incident at the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a multiplex in Aurora CO.  (I think ABC is a bit "over the top" with the second part of this show title.) 
Much of the detail has been covered on other stations, and Aurora police have refused to comment publicly on a motive. 

But Brian Ross, on ABC, described suspect James Holmes as a bookish loner who had once been an academic star but who had been slipping in graduate school recently, and was withdrawing from a PhD program.

The story is particularly disturbing. Incidents like this occur every few years somewhere in the country.  But this is the first time where the perpetrator was someone I would have “liked” had I met him before the incident and been unaware of his dark side.  This is closer to someone who could have been perceived as “like me”.

Forensic psychiatrists have been trying to describe this kind of “nihilism”, perhaps as a loss of meaning. It sounds a bit like the same kind of mentality that drove Al Qaeda terrorists, who often were privileged and had upper class backgrounds, but who somehow perceived something was going to be taken away from them.  Other media accounts have hinted at a fascination with disorder or entropy.  Some networks, especially CNN, have been saying that they want to cover the perpetrator as little as possible and focus on the victims and those who sacrificed for them.  It's very enforcement to understand everything he was doing, however, for security reasons, but not to give him any more public notoriety than necessary. 

Do violent TV shows and movies really have an effect on some unstable young people?  It is probably a bigger problem than we want to admit.  My own mother wouldn’t let me see them when I was a kid!

The 20-20 report also covered the tragic loss of Jessica Ghawi, who had escaped another incident in Toronto.

I had some trouble extracting ABC’s embed code this morning, and then when I did the ABC clip wouldn’t play sound on the same computer. 

Also, ABC News sends pop-up ads in somewhat poor taste (like Viagra) even if harmless, not worthy of a major media organization. 

Saturday Night, "CNN Presents" emphasized interviews (by Don Lemon) with or about the victims in "Colorado Theater Shootings".  But Sunday CNN used the same descriptive phrase as ABC (above). 

Picture (a different topic): Aerial photo of Las Vegas and surrounding Colorado River, from museum at National Geographic.

Update: July 31

I did find some comments by psychologists explaining the "nihilism".  These essays speak for themselves.

There is an essay on "Deeper Questions" by Dr. Mark Dillof, here.

Dr. Stephen A. Diamond has a piece on the "Joker" syndrome in Psychology Today, rather long, link here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Person of Interest": the CBS series is a prequel to "Minority Report"

There’s a little bit of the pre-crime concept in the CBS series “Person of Interest”, in which Reese,  a former CIA hit-man (supposedly expired) James Caviezel  (the “Christ” in the Passion) works with homely aspie billionaire scientist Finch (Michael Emerson) to prevent crimes by preventive surveillance, particularly on the Internet.

In “Foe” (originally Episode 8 in Nov. 2011) Finch’s app identified an ex East German, ultimately identified as Kohl (Alan Dale) who hasn’t made an e-commerce transactions since 1987.  Not taking advantage of something is itself a red flag sometimes.  Kohl seems to be after some former chums now living in New York with new identities.  There is a scene where a man is attacked by a cyanide-laced needle (oddly prescient of a recent international airline incident on Delta).  Kohl, with this threats of extreme rendition, himself acts like the mad dentist in “Marathon Man” (or maybe even the original “Little Shop of Horrors”), with his lecture on the arm’s ulnar nerve.
The series is created by Jonah Nolan and, in part, J. J. Abrams (“The Revolution”).  Yet, this seems to be a series about an ex-spy who “does what he does” for his own reasons, not about any one original issue.  The Cold War now seems a bit passé. The participation of Abrams makes one wonder if this series could come up with an episode based on a smaller EMP device, perhaps stolen from the military.  

The CBS link is here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

PBS Frontline: "Fast Times at West Philly High" and "Middle School Moment"

On July 17, 2012, PBS Frontline aired the documentary “Fast Times at West Philly High”, about a project and contest for high school students to design and build two cars (from scratch) that get over 100 mpg and use alternative fuels.   The automobiles are entered in a Progressive Automotive X Prize Competition.  There is a $10 million prize fund.

The film presented the obstacles overcome by some of the kids.  One had been bullied. Another was a girl who had missed a year of school to take care of a younger sister, with no one ever checking on why she wasn’t in school.  That sort of riles me up – responsibility (and outright personal sacrifice, as of one’s education) imposed on a kid for someone else’s (her parents’) sexual intercourse, not her own – does she get to pass it on when she becomes a parent? Is that how “family values” is supposed to work.

The team faces a storm which could damage the cars left outside, before their work is judged.

A descriptive PBS link is here.
The 40 minute film was followed by a short, “Middle School Moment”, with  John Balfanz (13 min).  The  films showed the relationship between academic failure in middle school (sixth to eighth grades) and subsequently failing to finish high school.
Watch Middle School Moment on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The 40 minute film was followed by a short, “Middle School Moment”, with  John Balfanz (13 min).  The  films showed the relationship between academic failure in middle school (sixth to eighth grades) and subsequently failing to finish high school.  Kids fall through the cracks because of dogmatic disciplinary policies that leave them stranded.  I thought alternative schools were supposed to fill this gap!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Political Animals": Weaver is forceful, but the gay son story seems a bit contrived

The mini-series “Political Animals” started tonight on USA (“characters welcome”), with (“Ripley”) Sigourney Weaaver as Elaine Barrish, as a secretary of state who has run unsuccessfully against the current president (Adrian Pasdar) but wants a divorce from her ex-president husband (Ciaran Hinds). Sound like an artificial set-up?  When journalists are captured in Iran and threatened with execution, all the other elements of her life spring into operation as she “bullies” her way into one critical confrontation after another.

Much of the plot contains her younger gay son Thomas Hammond (Sebastian Stan), who early in the episode confronts his parents with his plans to open a club, but needs them as investors.  His father  (that is, Hinds) refuses, saying he ought to be satisfied with a career as a piano teacher.  The film shows him playing Scott Joplin’s music, not something more formal or highbrow.  After disappointment, his life spirals downward, as he already has a chemical problem.  (Well, Elaine smokes.)   Elaine makes a lot of the  backstory where her son was outed involuntarily (as with the character Will in "Days of our Lives"). 

The episode also involves a journalist who has been reporting on her, and has something to say about today’s hard times in the newspaper business.

The series is created by Greg Berlanti, whose finest creation for my money was “Everwood”, which, in large part, related the long story of a prodigy teenage pianist Ephram Brown (Gregory Smith).

USA’s site for the series is here

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dateline "Deadly Connection" in Colorado resembles a famous soap opera plot

On Friday, July 13, NBC Dateline aired a report by Keith Morrison, “Deadly Connection”.  The two-hour documentary started with the disappearance of an African American girl, Kenia Monge, after visiting bars in a popular area of Denver.  Later there would occur a horrific crime, against Lydia Tillman in Fort Collins.  Bizarre evidence would lead to a retail employee, Travis Forbes, whom police would track to Texas and then back to Colorado, leading to unusual negotiations between police and Forbes to get a confession.

The details in the report are graphic, but what makes it interesting is the resemblance to plot threads in some movies and even soap operas.  The initial kidnapping resembles a sequence currently happening in the soap opera “Days of our Lives”, and in Fort Collins, the key investigators were a husband and wife police officer team rather like Bo and Hope in the same soap opera.

Morrison also criticizes the bars for being loose in allowing underage people into establishments and to drink.

Denver NBC affiliate Channel 9 has a report on the show here.

A story like this lends itself more to Dateline’s documentary style (with interviews) of filmmaking than to conventional dramatization.

I think that Dateline ought to air a follow-up on Chris Hansen’s notorious series (“To Catch a Predator”) of a few years ago, and document what has happened to a few of the high profile people (like Rabbi David Kaye) who were convicted.  How are they “treated” in prison and “supervised” when released?  The Kaye case is particularly disturbing because Virginia did not prosecute him; his became a federal case and he was not even arrested for nine months.  Once taken into custody, he never returned home.  This story deserves an update from NBC.

Wkipedia attribution link for Denver picture, Colfax Ave., public domain, by Vertigo78. Below: Wikipedia attribution link for picture from Keenesburg by Jeffrey Beall, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.  I visited the area in August 1994, on the way to Sterling from Denver, whereupon I would have a personal “epiphany” during lunch.

Update: January 2, 2016

Dateline re-aired the episode New Year's Night.  Note this account in Westwood. But the heart of the broadcast was the survival of Lydia Tillman, where the details are described in this 2011 Daily Mail story. The broadcast showed her learning to speak again, with a tracheotomy showing, recovering from profound disability resulting from the assault.  I don’t see this after a crime being shown in the media very often.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ABC's daytime GAA is rather tame

Today, I sampled ABC’s daytime “Good Afternoon America” , hosted by Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer.

The program appears to have replaced the daytime self-help show “The Revolution”, which had previously replaced the soap “All My Children”.   And ABC’s “The Revolution” is a far cry from NBC’s drama planned this fall.

The topics covered were rather paperweight.   This is no match for GMA (and, by the way, in the 1970s, the acronym GAA meant “Gay Activists’ Alliance”).  The program started with some shark following off North Myrtle Beach, SC.

Then Siggy Flicker and Cluck Nice talked about helicopter parenting, with the tendency for some parents to want to reinvent themselves through their kids.

And Blair Underwood appeared to explain how the average woman spends $13000 on makeup in a lifetime.

The main link is on Yahoo! here

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ABC's "NY Med": Dr. Oz lays it on the line: it's dangerous not to have a relationship

Dr. Mehmet Oz takes us through his medical practice in a big NYC hospital (New York Presbyterian)  in ABC’s new documentary series, “NY Med” (aka “New York Medicine”). The eight-part series premiered July 10 (one hour episodes). 

Oz is a heart surgeon in NYC (just as Sanjay Gupta on CNN is a neurosurgeon, in Atlanta.  In an early episode, Oz says he won’t do open heart surgery (in this program, a valve replacement, like what Barbara Walters had) one someone (at least elderly) who cannot name one person that he/she loves and that loves him/her back.  That doesn’t sound like love in the best ethical sense – loving to get love back in return, and it may explain a lot of jealousy (which I have never experienced), but it’s necessary to keep a compromised heart in an older person beating after major surgery.  In many coronary bypass surgeries, the heart is stopped and the patient is on a heart-lung machine. Without motivation (however reciprocal) it won’t restart.
In the show, Oz presented a divorced couple. Nevertheless, the ex-wife accepted the power of attorney and was by the ex-husband’s side.  “They stood by each other for many years.”  It would appear that he would view a same-sex couple exactly the same way.  With a widow (or widower), the support from adult children (or other extended family relatives) could be critical. (I discussed this point on my main “BillBoushka” blog July 10 in conjunction with my own personal experience, in a coordinated post; in earlier posts, I've talked about social isolation in conjunction with previous bullying, Asperger's, and "schizoid personality".) Living in social isolation is dangerous, in Oz’s view – yet many people do so and go well into old age precisely because they took care of themselves and didn’t “let” anything go wrong.  This attitude was more common in the 1950s and 60s (before lifesaving surgeries and transplants were available for so many diseases) than many medical people today realize. When your time was up, you went, and it was someone else’s turn.

The show then demonstrates major liver surgery, where the liver is removed completely, repaired, and put back in.

Then there is a young adult female patient who, after developing a sudden headache, finds out that she has a gigantic brain tumor.  She wants to see pictures of the tumor after it comes out.  She is awake during a long surgery. Not all of the tumor can be safely removed, but she recovers her speech and functionality quickly. 

A young man who says he practices Christian Science shows up with a rash that could be measles. 

Another young man, HIV positive, vomits in the eyes of a physician, possibly exposing the physician. But he will be treated with protease inhibitors. 

Early in the show, there is a man who took Cialis and can’t control the result.

Here’s the beta ABC site for the show. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PBS Frontline airs major documentary on AIDS in African Americans

July 10, PBS Frontline presented “Endgame: AIDS is Black America” (2 hours).  This riveting documentary follows similar documentary films on AIDS reviewed recently on my movies blog (“How to Survive a Plague”, June 24, 2012, and “We Were There”, May 2011). 

The early part of the film traces the beginnings of the epidemic in the early 80s, when the black community perceived AIDS as a disease of “them”, white gay men. In time, the proportion of blacks with HIV would increase through a variety of means, including iv drug use and heterosexual activity as well as homosexual, setting up a pattern somewhat like that found in Africa. 

In one case, a woman, married about a year and feeling ill, one days finds evidence that her husband was infected and didn’t tell her before they got married.  She says she still loves him, but he can’t love her because he betrayed her.

Later an “All American girl” says how she got HIV from a boyfriend shortly after graduation. In an unusual situation, she became acutely ill from the HIV itself quickly.  She says she was not taught about condoms in high school, only about abstinence, because of a right wing political agenda.

The documentary looks at the epidemic in Washington DC, and the lack of knowledge among many African Americans that some medications can help them.

The film also looks at the attitude in southern black churches on homosexuality, which presents a bit of a paradox. The community was in a state of feeling misled after the civil rights movement (and all its violence) in the 1960s had settled down; it wanted to “move on” without further political battles.

If "Black America" were a country, it would have the 16th largest number of HIV infections of any country in the world, more than in many countries in Africa. 

The link for the film is here.

Monday, July 09, 2012

CNN: "Cruise to Disaster": Costa Concordia and the safety of cruise ships

CNN British correspondent Dan Rivers narrates the documentary about the Costa Concordia catastrophe in the one hour documentary “Cruise to Disaster”, which aired Sunday night on CNN.

A good link giving facts about the film is here

The documentary interviews many of the survivors and shows how the ship did not train or prepare passengers for evacuation.

The cruise ship companies register their ships in Liberia and are operated offshore to avoid most US taxes.  (An insurance company that I worked for in the 90s owned a Liberian ship registry.)  Caranval owed the Concordia.

The film showed with models (and a model basin simulation) how the Concordia is much larger than the Titanic and vulnerable to capsizing in some situations. A shio this large is very hard to evacuate.

The negligence of the crew, causing the disaster, has been well documented. 

In another disaster in the Indian Ocean, a cruise ship lost power, stranding passengers for several days.

There is a detailed factual history of the Concordia disaster on Jan. 13, 2012 here

Monday night, CNN AC360 reported on crime on cruise ships. 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

ABC: "Secret Millionaire": Hilary Decesare, founder of Internet safety company, goes undercover in Long Beach

While ABC’s new “Secret Millionaire” may echo the intention of Oprah Winfrey’s “The Big Give” (Feb. 28, 2008), it’s much more intimate and upfront than any reality show in history.

This week’s undercover millionaire is Hilary Decesare, founder and CEO of Everloop, a social network for kids.  She had been raised in a well-to-do LA Valley suburb, and hardly knew where Long Beach, CA was when she volunteered to live there for a week in a low-income house and mix with the neighborhood. ABC says she has taught kids about Internet safety through Tweenagers, from Wired Safety.

She found and interacted with three community groups. The first one was a group that provided food for the homeless started by Jonas Corona, age 9, called “Love in the Mirror”, link . 

The next group was New Hope Grief Support and it provided support for families with loved ones in hospice, or who had lost loved ones.  The website is here

The last group was the Shoestring City Ranch, in which volunteers and kids took care of animals. The site is this

At the end of the episode, Hilary writes donation checks, in different amounts, to each of the charities.
But it was the mode of volunteering that was so striking. It was so up close and personal.  Hilary says she is a mom herself.  It is very difficult for someone in my situation, having lived most of my adult life “on another planet”, to become involved in the interpersonal emotions within other people’s families, especially their children.  In the more distant past, I would have not been welcome in such environments; in more recent years, people have made unsolicited challenges to me to get involved.  Performing as an “AIDS buddy” in short term situations in the 1980s was much less demanding emotionally than this.
The link for this episode is here.

There is a link to a “meet the millionaires” page that has comments from people who want to be clients!

It strikes me that a particular challenge is to find out who actually can benefit from one's personal time and attention.  There are pandhandlers, and there are the genuinely unfortunate but capable. Yet, the New Testament says, "Give to whoever asks...."   With no personal selectivity?  That doesn't develop personal connectedness.  

I've been in Long Beach myself only once, in 2002. 

Picture: recent CA trip, near Camp Pendleton

Saturday, July 07, 2012

ABC 20-20: Barbara Walters does special documentary on "Heaven"

On Friday July 6, ABC and Barbara Walters presented a two-hour 20-20 special, “Heaven: Where Is It? How Do We Get There?”

ABC’s international news release for the documentary is here.

The presentation is informal, with Barbara Walters (herself 81 and recovered from risky open heart surgery) interviewing many religious leaders.

Evangelical pastor Joel Osteen remained non-judgmental and explained why he stays away from social issues now.

A Mormon pastor said that people of all faiths (not just Mormons) go to heaven, but their place in the afterlife depends on their works during this life.

The early introduction referred to some films, like Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones”  (Movies blog, April 1, 2011) and “Defending Your Life”.  There was an odd quote, which, out of context, could have a disturbing insinuation:  “If you don’t change who you are you won’t go to heaven”.

Toward the end of the first hour, Walters interviewed the Dalai Lama, and discussed reincarnation and his own memory of past lives, which tend to develop over time in a successor life as if part of one’s own. (Film: “My Reincarnation”, movies blog, Dec. 27, 2011).  

Walters, opening the second hour, interviewed radical Islamist suicide bombers, including one in an Israeli prison when his device failed.  They discussed the belief that they will go to Paradise and even be met by virgins.

She then discussed atheism and critical thinking, as expressed in a summer camp run by American Atheists, which views heaven and hell as superstitions.  This life is “the only chance you have”.  If Heaven is so wonderful, why do we cling to life so much at the end?

Walters talked about a particular “God gene” that seems to affect personality and make some people more receptive to spirituality and faith.

Walters then looked at some accounts of near-death experiences, including that of a woman who almost died after a C-section from an amniotic fluid embolism, a rare complication of childbirth today. Could the images come with failing oxygen levels in a dying brain?  

The documentary saved the most brutal for last: the "land down under".  We've seen Marlena's fantasy of purgatory on "Days of our Lives".  Stefano may be in a worse place.  Marilyn Manson says that "hell" would be more fun because he wouldn't be allowed to do anything in Heaven.

Modern physics could shed light on the question. Since “existence” builds up from bosons to physical energy, to matter, chemicals, and biological systems, one could say that consciousness and free will is at the top of this order, perhaps (along with biological reproduction) as nature’s way of countering entropy (which by itself mandates death).  Maybe an agent of consciousness, once formed, cannot be destroyed, and must emerge somewhere in another universe if not reincarnated again.

While I believe in an afterlife, I don't think it's about having a condo in a heavenly city (like Clive Barker's "First Dominion" in "Imagica") and living happily ever after with family members.  Maybe it's more like belonging to a group consciousness (like the end of Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" -- never a movie yet) with glimpses of memory of earthly life.  Or maybe time freezes on us at our last moments, a frightening thought for some. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Will Horton on Days: the world's first 18-year-old gay crime boss?

Well, we’re really seeing Will Horton (Chandler Massey) go to the dark side on “Days of our Lives”.  Part of me wishes Will really existed, and cheers him on.  We all love to see him stand up to EJ.

But, what, to become a crime boss himself?  The world’s first gay mafisa, at age 18?  His most telling line today to Elvis was, “I want to be you.”  And what he wants, is “power”.  To have that in a relationship with Sonny won’t be enough.  Will suddenly has become Clark Kent on red kryptonite, using his acumen for evil as if evil were intrinsically good. 

He even resigns Elvis’s chess king for him.  In an earlier episode, EJ played a Vienna Opening against a policeman.  Chess theorists will chuckle. 

Too bad, Will Horton is a fictitious character. I'd love to see him really exist. 

Sonny is now the most stable character on the show. Since Will is so hungry for "power", he must be the "psychologically masculine" person of the relationship in Rosenfels's polarity theory; so that makes Sonny psychologically feminine. Will does not "yield".  He has become unbelievably dominating. Is that the result of the writing, or Chandler Massey's acting?

What happens when Chad finds out that the DiMera business was "stolen" from him?  By the way, that subplot about kidnapping Melanie is pretty ridiculous. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Michael Wood's "Story of England": Kibworth provides a lot of lessons in "social capital"

On Tuesday July 3, 2012, PBS stations aired the first two hours of Michael Wood’s “Story of England”.  
The first episode was “Romans to Normans”, the second was “Peasants’ Revolt and the Black Death”. The series focuses on the village of Kibworth, about 100 miles north of London, and the surrounding county.

The first hour stressed that Roman “technology” and know-how was lost when the Roman empire crumbled to barbarians, and some of the same capabilities would not return until the 18th century.  That sounds like a warning about what could happen to the modern world if there was a global catastrophe destroying technology (say, EMP). The history traced melting of the Saxons, the “Angels”, and later the Normans after the 1066 conquest. As a personal aside: I visited the "William the Conqueror" museums in Bayeux, France in May 1999.  

The second hour focuses on the economic growth and feudalism of the area first, in the 13th and early 14th centuries.  Peasants rented lands from lords, and used every possible plot to grow food or raise animals because starvation was a real possibility. Peasants owed their lords not only money taxes, but actual labor as well.  Feudalism developed partly because there was no law and order and nobles could provide physical protection.  Gradually, communities became socially cohesive.

Hardship first occurred with the “little Ice Age”, and then with the plague or Black Death, which crossed England in waves several times for a half century.  (Is this a warning of what could happen to us today with H5N1?) The population of the area was cut in half.  Eventually peasants won more rights. 

People had no sense of privacy, as families lived in one-room cottages.  There was no individualism as we know it.  People were brought up to be social creatures only.

There developed a tradition of communal living that transcended family, and is shown at the end of the film with a cancer fund-raiser.

Wood says that by the 15th century, the people around Kibworth were already becoming "modern people". He interposes many images of modern Britain in the film. 

The PBS link is here.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

NBC "Meet the Press" interviews Mark Shriver on his book about his dad and the Peace Corps; DOOL's Chandley Massey wins Emmy for role as Will

Today, David Gregory interviewed Mark Shriver, son of Sargent Shriver, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. The son Mark has a book, “A Good Man:  Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver” (published by Henry Holt); and Mark says that, in writing the book about the example set by his father, he wanted to look into what it means to be “great” and what it means to be “good”.  

Mark discusses the history of the Peace Corps , which his dad helped start; he says that Eisenhower opposed it. One has to be in a service framework and have some bearing with volunteerism at home to be an effective “ambassador” overseas. 

Mark also discussed his father’s Alzheimer’s Disease, and says his dad never lost focus on moral compass or sense of identity. Maria Shriver's HBO series "The Alzheimer's Project" is reviewed here May 10, 2009. 

Chandler Massey, 21, won a 2012 Daytime Emmy award for his role of Will in the soap, “Days of our Lives”.  The link and photo are here. Did the episode of his “coming out” as gay figure in?  Chandler plays the character with great intensity, making eye contact with the television viewer, particularly when interacting with Sami.  In other YouTube appearances, Massey has said that his character has flirted with his own moral dark side.