Sunday, September 30, 2012

Emmy-awarded "Homeland" Season 2 starts tonight, more credible account of CIA than most


Spurred by recent Emmy results, I checked out “Homeland” tonight, on Showtime HD, the first episode of Season 2 called “The Smile”.

I suppose that the series gives a more realistic look at what may go on at Langley than most other, more high profile shows and movies about the CIA.  I wonder if the agency really does hire back troubled agents and give them new assignments, after electroshock therapy especially.

Claire Daines, as Carrie Mathison, seems to be struggling to have some kind of family life, growing her own vegetables and cooking for her family, when she gets sent on a three-day intelligence trip to Beirut. Carrie believes that Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a rising political star and former Marine gunnery NCO, was the same person as an asset actually held by Al Qaeda and converted to radical Islam, and the show, at the end, confirms some of that belief.   Carrie has to show some ingenuity to escape from a dragnet in a market in Beirut.  Is this real life for CIA case officers?  I doubt it, but it sounds more believable than ABC’s “Missing”.

The opening sequence of the show replays some 9/11 footage in black-and-white, and the plot suggests that Carrie is coming into specific intelligence about a homeland attack.  In the meantime, Brody seems able to get into the CIA and get his hands on classified stuff.  Not sure I believe that could happen.

One interest aspect of the episode was the quickness with which CIA agents are sent around the world, and how they try to live their family lives as if they didn’t do anything unusual.  That sort of thing happens in my novel manuscript. I actually pruned some of the excess travel from my novel because I didn't think it was believable. 

The official site is here.


You wonder if CIA employees really are “military”.  Maybe so, while pretending not to be.  The show does an interesting reconstruction of what the atrium in the CIA interior looks like, and how security in-processing works. 

Wikipedia attribution link of Lamgley CIA entrance picture.

If you have it, watch this program in HD.  It takes some doing to find the HD channel number for your zipcode, at least on Comcast; for me, it was one channel lower than the regular one.

The episode was directed by Michael Cuesta, who is also a producer.  Cuesta directed "L.I.E." ("Long Island Expressway") in 2001.  That film had a showing at the Lagoon Theater (Landmark) in Minneapolis on September 11, 2001, and Cuesta was there for a Question and Answer.  I met him personally in a bar in downtown Minneapolis afterward; he was stranded there because of the airlines shutdown after 9/11. (I lived in Minneapolis myself at the time.) I recall that the DVD of "L.I.E." was edited to remove the old World Trade Center towers.  Since he directs this series with its subject matter, I'm sure he remembers that day and that film showing well.

The show does not seem to have any commercial breaks, which means that the viewer gets a full hour of rather densely-plotted television viewing. 

  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

ABC 20-20: in Texas, female teacher goes to jail for contact with male school athletes over 18


On Friday, Sept. 28, ABC 20-20 aired a story ("Classroom Confidential") about a female teacher from  Fort Worth, Texas, who was sentenced to five years in prison for intimate contact with males students who were, in fact, over 18. 

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Heavy cell phone messaging had preceded the activity.

The teacher’s husband has kept the marriage intact and will remain faithful and resume the relationship when she gets out, according to his interview. 

The age of consent in Texas is 17, I believe; but it is 18 in many important states, including California, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Virginia.  Many people feel that these ages are too high; but physiological maturity tends to precede full brain maturity and ability to control impulses or see their consequences.   See Wikipedia article here

In this case, Texas law makes it a crime for a public school teacher to have intimate contact with any students (even not in their own classes).  Some others states also do so.

The broadcast recouped a number of other notorious cases of female teachers with male students.

There have been suggestions that sometimes older high school students can tempt teachers or trick them, or frame them (as when students have gotten bad grades).  There is a Lionsgate-Lifetime 2003 film “Student Seduction” on this problem.  I have a screenplay script called “The Sub” on this theme which I had posted online in early 2005, and it got drawn into an incident when I was substitute teaching late in 2005 (see main blog, July 27, 2007).  At the same school there had occurred in incident the previous June involving a regular male English teacher and incidental inappropriate contact with a 17 year old female, which would have been technically illegal in Virginia, resulting in  supervised probation and mandatory psychiatric counseling to avoid permanent registration (as well as loss of job) for that teacher, as I recall.   I had actually subbed for that teacher once and watched him teach for a while; had a real sense of humor in class. 

Later, the 20-20 report discussed absurd arrests of students by police because of "zero-tolerance" policies, including an arrest of a middle school child in New York City for "doodling" on a desk top, and of a boy in Albuquerque, NM for belching loudly in class.  What, you're supposed to say "Excuse me" when you burp? 

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Last Resort" (ABC): a submarine left to sort out the world on its own


I’m not sure the “mystery” of what must have happened in Washington will hold for an entire series, as on ABC’s “Last Resort” created by Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek, which opened with its Pilot (“Captain”) on Sept. 27.

When a submarine, the USS Colorado, receives an order to fire nuclear weapons at Pakistan from a backup channel in the Antarctic (set up to be operational only in Washington is nuked), Captain Chaplin (Andre Braugher) naturally wants confirmation through normal channels. Washington then hands over command to the gold-leaf XO (Scott Speedman) who doesn’t want to obey either.  Pretty soon, the sub is attacked by friendly fire – but somehow manages to surface. Meanwhile, onboard computers show Pakistan has been annihilated anyway.

The sun beaches at an island (all too conveniently equipped with a NATO satellite base) in the Indian Ocean to sort things out. 
   
The modern Navy does have women serving, equally, with no apparent tensions (a lot was made about submarine life during the 90s debate on gays in the military). 

At the end, the submarine fires a missile that lands in the Ocean east of Washington DC, to make a point. The script doesn't mention that an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) effect would happen over a wide area (see coverage here of "Revolution"). 
  
The show lacks the verve of “SeaQuest DSV”, which I recall from the 90s (it had a teenage scientist and a loquacious dolphin on board).

ABC’s link for the show is here.


The “Crossing the Equator” celebration early in the episode is probably realistic.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Guys with Kids": typical NYC studio sitcom


I sampled (from the NBC website) the new comedy series “Guys with Kids”, watching the 22-minute Pilot that aired on Sept. 26.  The series is created by Jimmy Fallon, Charley Grandy,  and Amy Oslos.

The guys are played by Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, and Zach Cregger. 

There are straight guys (you probably can’t tell that from the title), playing out the “consequences” of divorce after having kids (or maybe having kids without marriage) in studio-regulated situation comedy with plenty of 50s-style audience reactive laughter.

There is a line where one of the guys says to one of his kids, “I love you, but you make Daddy stupid.” I’m reminded of the recent study that shows men have lower testosterone levels while they are involved in fatherly activities with their kids.

There are some funny lines about hiring babysitters, and one guy has promised his ex-wife not to date while having the kid. 

Here’s NBC’s link for the full episode (available until 11/1/2012): website URL.  


This little comedy slipped in under the radar; “Modern Family” on ABC follows it immediately.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Modern Family": no second kid, no kitten yet


Since ABC's “Modern Family” did so well at the Emmys, I took a look at the half-hour premiere tonight, the episode called “Bringing Up Baby”. 

The gay male couple (Cam and Mitchell) won’t be getting a second child right now, and it seems as though they have trouble with the interim idea of getting a cat, which might be OK with Lily.  The couple really does seem to be into fathering, and is a long way from the stereotypes you see of the male gay community.

Some of the actually screenplay for the episode (though not in Final Draft format) is published on imdb under the episode synopsis (it just showed up).  You don’t see actual scripts (even excerpts) getting pubbed often.
The other families don’t get my attention so much.  There is an overweight kid who thinks he’s attractive – in a world that is suddenly turning on obesity in the young. 

But adding more conventional scenery is Dylan, played by Reid Ewing, who was visible too briefly in “Fright Night”.   His character is a long way from responsible young adulthood.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

President and Mrs. Obama appear on ABC's "The View" today


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on ABC's “The View” today.  The program must have been taped in NYC, as the president had just spoken live on CNN about the crisis of street violence in the Middle East, especially Libya and Egypt. 

The President said that the well-off should not “close the door behind them” in a way to prevent others from having opportunities. 

He also explained, in his own words, the idea that government cannot monitor speech by citizens, no matter how “offensive”, and that it cannot prevent self-distribution of speech on the Web that troubles others in other countries. The president said that individuals should be mindful of the importance some people put on religious figures and that no group (or its beliefs) should be denigrated for sport.

ABC calls the clip below “The Presidency’s Effect on Marriage”.  But a comment like that suggests that many couples (or potential couples) depend on the social supports for marriage as well as the relationship itself. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

"Revolution" quickly hints that permanent power blackout is manmade and reversible


Tonight, “Revolution” aired its second episode, “Chained Heat”.  The hour began with a view of life one week after the blackout, when it was becoming apparent to average people that power was “never” coming back.

But the episode tonight gives more hints that the blackout was deliberately set, and contained some rhetoric that modern life had destroyed “family”.  Indeed, in the opening sequence (one week later), Mom is telling the daughter not to let her little brother out of sight, as they go on an "adventure" where she can "play outside". 

This sounds like a Maoist plot to destroy the “underserved” power structure, including money, and make everyone a peasant.

It’s still hard to imagine (and a mystery) what the trigger was.  It was not a high-altitude EMP blast (which could become a risk from Iran or North Korea).

There is a woman who has the “device” that restores workability of electronics in a local area.
Electronics based on older technology (vacuum tubes) is not as vulnerable to EMP, and neither are cars with older fuel systems.

The actor who plays the young asthmatic (Graham Rogers  (website url interview) resembles Nick Eversman in “Missing”.

Practically nothing that I watch regularly got rewarded on the Emmys (here)

This video compares the hypothesis of Revolution with what would happen with a real EMP attack. It recommends that electronics owners protect their gear with EMP bags, which I have never heard of before.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

SNL opens season with Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing a striptease


SNL (Saturday Night Live) kicked off in 2012 last night with hosrt Joseph Gordon-Levitt of “Premium Rush”.

But, no, cycling wasn’t his opening.  Instead he did his impersonation of Magic Mike, and he apparently prepared his chest for it ahead of time. This is the first time I’ve seen an SNL host make such a sacrifice. Just call it "Burlesque in Manhattan".
  
The episode opened with an impersonation of Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan, and guest Robert Pattinson,  the latter most interested in his movie “Cosmopolis”.


Gordon-Levitt had hosted SNL last year, and had demonstrated some tumbling ability, as I recall. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NBC Dateline: Female kidnap victim convicted of having helped her captor escape from OK prison 17 years before.


On Friday, September 21, NBC Dateline aired a one hour report  “The Devil and Bobbi Parker”. 
  
Parker was found in East Texas in 2005 with an escaped convict (Randolph Dial), who had jumped from an Oklahoma prison in 1994.  She says she was kept with him for eleven years.  But then the state of Oklahoma extradited and prosecuted her (in 2008) claiming she had helped with the escape.  She didn’t testify, and the jury convicted her. She spent a year in prison for a crime she says she did not commit.

She went right back to her real husband after her rescue. But the state claims she lived as a common law wife with the convict with eleven years, and did not try to notify authorities even when the convict was in the hospital.  She says she was forced to masquerade as a wife by her captor.

Cathy Singer of NBC has the detailed report

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Other than a case in Arkansas recently discussed with the Alford Plea (the West Memphis case), this report seems to present one of the most egregious cases of someone serving a sentence for a crime he or she did not commit. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

NBC's "The Office": Team building anybody?


The NBC comedy series “The Office” does leave with memories of silly “team building” exercises from the 1990s.  Remember “Team Handbook”?  It was all for customer service!  (Remember what happened to Troy McClain for "the team" on an early episode of "The Apprentice"?)

Episode 1 of Season 9, airing Sept 20 (30 minutes), written and directed by Greg Daniels, was called “New Guys”.

Now, having to walk with a balancing pole on a rope seems like a silly exercise in physical courage, but one employee takes it too far, with a demonstration forty feet in the air.  When his harness (involving a laser printer as a counterweight) unravels, he has to use his lesbian upper body strength to hang on until the Los Angeles Fire Department arrives.

I can remember a massive team-building in a trip to Philadelphia at a conference sponsored by Group One software back in 1998. There was team building for managers, including the men doing a variety show in their shorts.  How humiliating!  You’re not supposed to worry about things you can’t do anything about.

NBC’s official site is here.
This is supposed to be this comedy series’s final season. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Talibanistan" episode from NatGeo seems timely now


Tresha Mabile, Matthew Arnold and Peter Coyote provide an on-the-ground report (48 minutes) in the 2010 National Geographic Channel Explorer report “Talibanistan”, about the “no man’s land” and tribal areas along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It’s directed by Max Salamon.

Young men report being kidnapped by the Taliban and being told that they will be trained to become suicide bombers, when they don’t know what that means.

Military helicopter pilots and computer operators report on the difficulty in distinguishing between Taliban and ordinary citizens seen on the ground from the air.  

The scenery in the film is stunning, and the report reminds one of Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” (movies blog, July 10, 2010). 


NatGeo has its own link and sample video from the film here

The film would seem timely to watch now, given media reports to assassination of US military personnel by Afghan soldiers whom they are training, and given Obama's commitment to withdrawal by 2014.  Afghanistan has indeed become President Obama's own war.   

Netflix does not have a DVD of this film, and is offering instant viewing only until Sept. 22, 2012.  I don't know why some films streamed on Netflix have expiration dates.  Does anyone?

Imdb says the whole film lasts 120 minutes; Netflix offers just 48 minutes now. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ABC survey for "The Best of TV" awards "I Love Lucy" the title "the best show of all time"


Barbara Walters hosted “The Best of TV” on a special ABC 20-20 Tuesday night, dressed in red in a gallery with a lot of old television sets, from the era when color was a novelty. The winners were based on a survey conducted by ABC News and People Magazine.

The best show of all time is “I Love Lucy”.  “Desliu” sold the library to CBS in the 1960s for $4 million, and it now makes CBS about $10 million a year. The black and white comedy portrayed Lucy and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) as a typical New York City couple, and Lucy’s desire to work and be independent (in the days before Betty Friedan) would get her into trouble with physical comedy, as when she worked on assembly lines (under the threat of getting fired).  One of the best sequences occurred with their trip to California, when going to the Golden State was a novelty.

The comedy mapped the birth of Lucille Ball’s real life baby with Lucy’s on the show.  And remember Fred and Ethel?

Not mentioned were “My Little Margie” or “The Honeymooners”.

“I Love Lucy” of course won best comedy, but runner ups were Seinfeld (with a skit about the paradox of “nothing” being “something”), the Cosby’s, and “All in the Family”.

The best reality show was “Dancing with the Stars”.  The best variety was “Saturday Night Live” which had started back in 1975. But Ed Sullivan got a lot of attention. (Dinah Shore did not.)


John Green and Alice Gomstyn have the ABC story here

For drama series, the shows discussed included Fox’s “24” and “The Twilight Zone”.  Remember the episode where the people wind up as animals in a zoo? Or, “It crawled out of the woodwork” – a blob. .  

Monday, September 17, 2012

NBC's "Revolution": with no electricity, no technology, everybody is in the same boat; a Maoist's fantasy


NBC launched its well-advertised series “Revolution” with a one hour pilot tonight. The opening was directed by Jon Favreau.  The series is created by Erck Kripke with  J.J.Abrams as Executive Producer.
   
The prologue presents a family in Chicago, about to put the kids to bad.  It’s apparent that the couple knows something is going to happen.  Then it switches to South Carolina, when a military man and his buddy is on an Interstate highway when all the cars stop and the planes drop out of the sky.

The world goes dark in eight minutes.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a high altitude blast could knock out a continent, maybe, but not the entire world.  Extraterrestrials could do it.

But at the end, one of the “radicals” gets on to a homemade computer, with the help of a device that looks like an ankh.

The “laws of physics” are said to have been suspended for long enough to knock out the entire planet’s technological infrastructure, including all meaningful money.  But the ankh suggests some sort of exotic invention that can change the constants of physics, locally or globally, for a few minutes.  I can’t imagine what this would be. Newt Gingrich would enjoy the speculation.  Here’s a perspective on Slate, link

The government is replaced by local militia. 

Pretty soon, after the story switches to 15 years later, a battle in a suburban neighborhood erupts, and a teenager is kidnapped.  There are a lot of lines about the meaning of “family”. 


It certainly sounds as though Maoist ideology could support the idea of destroying technology, destroying all money, and making everybody a peasant.  Is that equality?

NBC's site for the program is here.

I would not be fit to survive in such a world.  I guess I would disappear, not having the world that was taken away from me.  I wouldn’t want to have children to face such a world.  Is that cowardly?

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Glee" opens with more auditions, interesting gay character


On Thursday, September 13, 2012, Fox aired the fourth season premiere of “Glee”, an episode titled “The New Rachel”.

“Glee” is the popular musical comedy series created by Ryan Murphy with Ian Brennan and Brad Fulchuk, where a high school  Spanish teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) leads the effort to restore the high school glee club to earlier days of prominence.

In the kickoff episode, Rachel (Lea Michele) leaves Lima, Ohio for New York City, while the William McKinley High School glee club left behind (in Ohio) struggles with messy (if musical) auditions to replace here. 

The auditions get feisty. One Hispanic man is stopped during the audition, and throws a destructive temper tantrum, only to learn later that he would have been picked based on one line of singing.

One of the openly gay characters, played by Church Overstreet, also heads for New York at the end, with the blessing of his father, who counsels him to get a menial job right away.  Maybe he’ll settle in Bed-Stuy?
Recall that the film "Edge of 17" had covered gay life in nearby Sandusky, Ohio.   

There’s a funny opening scene where another “dancer”, are baring his totally hairless chest to his girlfriend, announces, “I’m straight”.


The official site on Fox is here

"Glee" had a 3-D concert movie in the summer of 2011. 

How does this series stack up against NBC’s “Smash”?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Parenthood" on NBC paints the "family portrait" at its own Drohega


Parenthood” started its fourth season on Tuesday night, Sept. 11, with an episode titled “Family Portrait”.
  
This “playing out” of a typical “natural family” as extended by enough determination and social support, seems quite popular with viewers, and perhaps presents some irony as it follows “The New Normal”.

Grandma and Grandpa, Zeek and Camille Braverman (Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia) keep their own issues backstage in order to maintain the loyalty and “social capital” of their grown children, who keep coming back, as if “real life” centered ultimately around family than just on modern adult pursuits. (My own mother lectured me on this around 2000 on one of her visits to me in Minneapolis.) 

Rebellious Sarah (Lauren Graham) is now tying the knot with Mark Cyr (Jason Ritter – remember him as the covert “good guy” alien in “The Event”), and Mark lets her know that it means a lot for him to be part of the family, even to the point of expecting her to “fight for him”.

Victor, the adopted son of lawyer Julia (Erika Christiansen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) also struggles to be seen as part of the family. 

When do people want to be themselves first?

There’s a nice little discussion about how to deal with religion – that believing in a God doesn’t require loyalty to any one church (an idea that the Rosicrucian’s always call “churchianity”).

In an earlier season, the bachelor chacarcter Crosby (Dax Shepard) was confronted by the fact that he had fathered a son, as NBC’s link explains here.


Wikipedia has a nice drawing of the family tree here

The series was inspired by the 1989 film “Parenthood” by Ron Howard for Universal (with the family called the Buckmans).  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"The New Normal" is a new comedy about a gay couple having kid by surrogacy


The New Normal”  (created by Ryan Murphy [creator of “Glee”] and Ali Adler) started last night (Sept 11) on NBC at 9:30 PM, and it does remind me of the old situation comedies in the 1950s.

Back then, I watched “My Little Margie” and “Amos ‘n’ Andy”.  The second of these would not be acceptable today, but then I found them both funny.  Of course, the most famous of all of them was “I Love Lucy”.  Remember Lucy’s California trip?

It struck me that the slick comedy about a gay couple planning to have a baby through surrogate parenting would not have seemed that funny then.  The pliot was called “Soda’s Choice”, about the couple’s choice of a Midwestern single mom and waitress as the mother.

The couple is a sports medicine doctor David  (Justin Bartha) and more stereotyped Brian (Andrew Rannells, from “The Book of Mormon”), and the waitress, Goldie (Georgia King) already scores points as an excellent mom for her bookish daughter (Bebe Wood), who bonds emotionally with Brian.  Goldier’s grandmother (Ellen Barkin) is politically incorrect enough to get unfriended on Facebook.

The men do recognized that their lives will change once they are dads.  "Life as we know it" ends.  Do they realize that their testosterone levels go down with fatherhood?  

Neither of the gay men comes across with a lot of "male external trappings," swagger or charisma (neither has the presence of either Will or Sonny in “Days of our Lives”, the last two of which more resembled some people I actually know). You wonder if David would have fun as a team physician for the Nationals (if he weren’t in LA), making decisions about pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown! That could make for some situation comedy.


NBC’s official site is here

The comedy doesn’t seem interested in the political or legal issues around surrogacy, which are summarized on Wikipedia here

It strikes me that the word “Normal” has become a pejorative.

See also the CNN report "Gary and Tony Have a Baby" June 24, 2010 here. 



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ABC Nightline airs interview with Bob Woodward on Debt Ceiling Crisis of 2011


On Tuesday September 10, 2012, ABC Nightline aired part of an interview with journalist Bob Woodward, about the behavior of President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R[OH) during the debt ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011.

There link to the entire episode (no embed offered) is here

Part of the interview was also aired on Diane Sawyer’s “World News Tonight”.

ABC called the broadcast (15 min) “Obama Revealed: Bob Woodward’s Explosive New Book”.  That book is “The Price of Politics” from Simon and Schuster.

Woodward says that default (which could have happened Aug. 3, 2011) was the financial equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, even more devastating than the financial collapse of 2008. That may indeed involve some hyperbole.

Yet Boehner seemed intimidated, especially by members of the Tea Party, who seemed to want to see the financial system crack so that the socially powerful could reign in on others.  


Woodward discusses a phone call that Obama made to Boehner, that Boehner interpreted as an ultimatum, and that Obama to this day says was just a request (for $400 billion more in revenue).

I recall that the government was about 40% short in revenues for bills due in August.  Contractors would not have been paid. There were legal arguments that could have guaranteed payments to Social Security recipients.

In July and August, 2011, I covered the debt ceiling crisis in detail on my Issues blog.

Woodward says that the country could face another financial Armageddon at the start of 2013 if the cuts are mishandled, regardless of who wins the general election in November.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

CBS "60 Minutes" interviews Navy Seal who write book about the end of Osama bin Laden


CBS 60 Minutes aired (Sept. 9) a 43-minute interview with former Navy Seal “Mark Owen”, author of the book “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden”, from Dutton (on order for me).  CBS titled the episode "Killing Bin Laden". 

“Mark Owen” is the pseudonym, and CBS, although it knows his real name and others do, has decided not to air his real name.  Owen was heavily made up for the interview (a four hour session), to protect his identity from possible “long memories”.  His forearms showed tattoos on the undersides.  He was somewhat stocky in build.

Owen says his team was chosen  (for “Operation Neptune Spear”) somewhat because of timing and coincidence.  They trained in March, had some leave in April and then flew over to Afghanistan in late April.
Own also says that “assassination” was not necessarily the aim of the team. They would have captured Osama bin Laden alive had that been possible.

There was a female CIA analyst on the plane who had worked for five years tailing Bin Laden.  Although Owen’s remarks about her comments on the plane (at about nine minutes into the video) are ambiguous, it sounds like she was very sure that Bin Laden, “The Pacer” in the Abbottabad (Pakistan) compound had been correctly identified and located. She is mentioned again at the end of the video.

I feel that, in another universe and with the proper clearances and background, I could have done the job of the analyst (not of the Seals).

Owen reports that all the women in the compound were hostile, and securing the building after Bin Laden was shot was dangerous.  The other details, such as the downed chopper, are already somewhat familiar.

The team had to verify the body as Bin Laden’s before the president could make his announcement.  The shooting actually happened at about 1:18 AM local time Monday May 2, 2011 (still May 1 in the US).
After the public announcement, the team was flown to a secret meeting with President Obama in the same C130 cargo plane that had been used in the failed mission in Iran in April 1980, when Jimmy Carter was president.

The last part of the broadcast did cover the Pentagon’s objections to the book’s being published without clearance.  Owen says he revealed no classified information and that his account is totally non-partisan. 

The link to the video (which can be viewed in four parts) is here.



Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the "60 Minutes" interview was the personal appearance of the author.

Update: Sept. 16

The media has announced the real name of the author as Matt Bissonnette, for example,. in this story by the Washington Times, to the effect that aides leaked the details before the book, here

Saturday, September 08, 2012

How ordinary people react when others are in danger: What is a hero? a "coward"?


Attorney Chris Cuomo and Jim Avila hosted a report on ABC 20-20 “Heroes vs Wimps: Do You Have the Right Stuff?”, about predicting when ordinary individuals will jump in to dangerous situations and risk their own lives or well-being to save others.

The report also talked about the “bystander effect” and “diffusion of responsibility”. When someone is one of many in a crowd, sometimes no one acts. And some people actually snap pictures.

There was in incident while a man in a suit watched as others rescued people from a burning car, and the man was called a “coward”.

Black men are eight times more likely to step in then Caucasian man, and Hispanic men are two times more likely than whites.  Ironically, urban dwellers are more likely to act than rural people.

Psychologists say that “Batman” (amateur) heroes have a surprising character trait, “High self-confidence”.

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I haven’t encountered an emergency like this, but I would always call 911 from a cell phone.  Would I face a burning building?  No.  I don’t want to become dependent myself.  Could I jump in a river to save someone?  No, I am a poor swimmer.

The episode reminds me of a short story ("Pool Day") I wrote in tenth grade English in high school (1959).  A pool lifeguard has to decide whether to save a drowning boy when a nuclear attack has just happened.  

Another video on 20-20 last night showed the behavior of house cats (with cameras) when allowed to roam.  It is surprising how many birds, which have the advantage of flight, they catch.  They become just like big cats as apex predators. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Endgame": Canadian cable series portrays a reclusive chess grandmaster who makes a living as a private gumshoe


Having reviewed a movie called “Endgame” (Sept. 4), I looked at the cable series by the name “Endgame,” where a mentally and medically wounded (but physically handsome) chess master, Arkady Balagan (Shawn Doyle), “working from home” in a Vancouver hotel suite, gets hired to solve bizarre mysteries with his imaginative and analytical skills.  This is another “genre” series where an appealing lead character is hired to use his gifts to solve crimes (like “Grimm”, Tuesday).  The series is created by Avrum Jacobson.

In the 2009 Pilot,  “Deadman Talking”, Balagan investigates the death of a hotel security guard whose body is found near the “seawall”.  There is an interesting medical point made:  he had almost been denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition of Hepatitis C (which means that the fiction story has to take place in the US, not Canada, where the locations for the film are obvious).  The guard had not told a girl friend about this before intimacy.  The comment is made that Hepatitis C is spread by blood but not sex, which sounds illogical. It can be spread by (heterosexual) sex.

The metaphor of chess is handled rather superficially.  There’s a line about the unusual move of the “horse” (Knight), and Balagan says that every chess position has an ultimate truth.  Actually, computers can’t prove wins or losses in most positions considered to have slight advantages for one side (like for White), and Monte Carlo simulations will cause variable results (as in Larry Kaufman’s book, on my Book Review blog July 3).   I think a philosophical discussion of the virtues of “1. d4” for White (more pawns in the center, ahead of minor pieces) is in order.

Balagan has an appealing young sidekick Sam (Torrance Coombs), who keeps getting caught and beat-up when he breaks in to apartments  (bump keys really won’t work with magnetic locks, sorry) to gather evidence for Arkady, and isn’t all that good yet at hacking.

You can watch the Canadian cable series on Hulu (link now given by Imdb), with first episode here.


The series is distributed worldwide to cable stations by Lionsgate.

And a tip:  I agree, White should not succumb to Black's sacrificial mating attack in the main line King's Indian.  Let's see some real positions in movies or television series involving chess!


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

AETV's "Coma", a retread, seems trite for Ridley Scott



I’m not too much of a fan of making four hour miniseries (sometimes longer) for cable based on novels, requiring a lot of viewer commitment.  But some novels, particularly some like Sidney Sheldon, are so intricately plotted that directors find this is the only way to make them interesting enough.

I remember reading Robin Cook’s “Coma” in the seventies, and it was a feature film in 1978 by MGM and directed by Michael Crichton, which I think I saw living in NYC. 

A&E (that is, AETV) has offered a new four hour miniseries this week of the book, directed by Ridley Scott and his brother Tony Scott, who passed away in August.  Both Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers contributed as production companies.

Lauren Ambrose plays Susan Wheeler, the medical resident at a Boston hospital, and she soon starts getting out of line as she notices previously healthy people wind up dead from minor surgeries.  She breaks all the laws and investigates on her own,  getting herself disciplined in the process.  She winds up, following a treasure hunt, at the “Jefferson Institute” in a huge warehouse where comatose patients, now braindead, are suspended from the ceiling, their bodies sheathed in metallic fiber. 

It takes pretty big business to make this profitable, says one cynical doctor, given the litigious nature of medicine.

The original novel came from a different era – pre-Internet and pre cell phone – and most of all, pre-HIPAA.  The whole premise of a story like this was more believable in the 1970s than it is today.

In the second half, oh yes, Susan is captured and has to waken herself from the coma and experience what she had uncovered.  The perpetrators say they are harvesting tissues to end Alzheimer's, and that the "sacrifice" is morally justified. 

The official site, for watching online, is here


I’d like to see more “originality” or new stuff in series, not just remakes. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Grimm" episode hypothesizes a bizarre pandemic


An early Season 2 episode of "Grimm", titled “Quill”, aired Labor Day evening on NBC, and it played the pandemic card, although not very convincingly.

Nick (a handsome David Giuntoli), when investigating an accident, stumbles upon victims of a bizarre “vampire disease”, where victims, in a short time, develop bleeding sores and attack others, spreading the virus, before dying.

The disease is called “Wesen”, which I have never heard of.  In one morgue scene, it’s compared to Ebola, but that’s not very applicable.  In terms of behavior, it’s more like rabies (which does not cause skin lesions).  It would be unusual for the same virus to work against connective tissue and neurological tissue both, early.

In a climactic scene for a 40-minute episode, a couple has discovered the cure with a simple oral medication potion. (The couple had been camping in Pacific Northwest woods when attacked.) No pandemic hemorrhagic  fever could be so easily treated.

A subplot has an arrival of a fugitive from Eastern Europe, a handsome young man who keeps shift-shaping, as a precursor to future episodes about the "virus".  

Nick seems to be able to keep himself sparkling clean and free of desecration, let alone contamination. 


The NBC Season 2 link is here

The show continues on Friday nights later in September. 

Monday, September 03, 2012

CNN Presents: "Obama Revealed" in 2012 answers D'Souza's "2016"


On Labor Day, “CNN Presents” aired the 90-minute documentary, “Obama Revealed: The Man, The President,”  with Gloria Borger, followed by a 30-minute “A Closer Look” with Anderson Cooper. The “film” seems intended to respond to “2016: Obama’s America”, by Dinesh D’Souza, now playing in theaters (movies blog, Aug. 30).  But there was a similar “Obama Revealed” on CNN in 2008.

The presentation gave a chronicle of Obama’s first term, starting with the Crisis of 2008, which is presented as a dire financial crisis left by the Bush administration for Obama to fix (a bigger threat than the Great Depression, according to the rhetoric).  The first critical even was the killing of Osama bin Laden, but it was followed soon by the partisan budget debt ceiling extension debacle in the summer of 2011.  Obama and Boehner seem to talk past each other even today on accounts over the debacle.

Obama is asked if he is aloof about socializing in Washington with politicians, and he says he needs to spend early evenings as a father with his daughters, with family dinner and helping with homework.

David Maraniss, author of “Barack Obama: The Story” appears frequently.

There was mention of the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” and that Obama took his time in doing so, in order that the end result would “last” and survive partisan attempts to reverse the repeal.  It also mentioned his being won over on gay marriage.

The documentary suggested that Obama will not relent on Iran’s having nuclear weapons and could actually intervene militarily, contrary to accusations from the GOP.  Iran is feared as a greater danger for giving nuclear materials to terrorists (related to the now apparent EMP threat) even than North Korea.

In the “Closer Look” Obama discussed, in generality, administration policy on using CIA drones to take out suspected terrorists overseas.

Obama on being a “hands-on dad”.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

CNN Next List: Interview with Yves Behar, with his $100 laptop for kids in developing countries


CNN, in a half-hour interview by Fareed Zakaria on “The Next List”, presented Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur, Yves Behar, 45, founder of Fuseproject, link

The interview focused on his  $100 laptop (“One laptop per child”),  announced as the  OLPC XO-3 Tablet  (following the 1.75) , given away to children in developing countries,  link

The newest version (announced in February 2012)  could be charged by solar collectors.  Some machines can be booted either under Microsoft XP or Linux, and use flash memories rather than hard drives.
Behar also presented his eyeglasses, given away to children in poor countries, designed of very flexible plastic and intended to look cool and attractive.  

Behar said that as a teenager he got into making things because of his interest in windsurfing, and that becoming a father gave him even more ideas. 

A link for the show is on the CNN Money site here

Here is a YouTube video (by Scribemedia) from 2007 by Behar. 
Behar looks quite youthful and fit in his interviews in “middle age”.