Thursday, January 31, 2013

"The Americans": Can an "arranged" KGB couple live incognito in DC area as "madman" Ronald Reagan takes office

As the Pilot of the Fox Network series “The Americans” opens, the wife Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) is opening up the shirt and chest of husband Phillip (Matthew Rhys), as if this whole series were going to become an erotic tease. ("NoNo" doesn't exist yet.)  But a “tease” is all that opening scene really is; how can people have a “romantic” martial (Song of Solomon) relationship arranged by the Motherland? Such is “Life with Elizabeth”.  Betty White would be proud of them.

Phillip and Elizabeth are spies, set up by the KGB to live as “normal Americans” in a modern house in suburban Falls Church VA, starting just months after “madman” Ronald Reagan takes office in 1981.  Their kids will be brought up as regular Americans and live that way, as part of the enemy, foreshadowing unmanageable complications. 

Very early, Phillip goes on a local kidnapping expedition, abetted by two young white men who look like “masculine gay” stereotypes (although this is 1981).  The target is kept muzzled in the trunk of his full-sized Olds. 

Another complication is that the couple’s next door neighbors are a family headed by an FBI agent  Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who quickly says he does counter-intelligence.  It’s almost trite to wonder if the government planted him there.  The current administration hadn’t even been in office long enough to notice.  (The episode did not mention the assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.)

How does a show come across when there are no cell phones, no Internet, and yet life seems about as modern and convoluted as today?  There were PC’s coming into existence – I sort of expect to see a Radio Shack TRS or an Atari somewhere. 

Note the trailer, where “The Great Communicator” says, “The greatest threat the United States faces now is the Soviet Union”. 

The series is produced for 20th Century Fox by Dreamworks.    The Pilot was directed by Gavin O’Connell.  The Pilot was scheduled for 90 minutes (including commercials) but ran over by two minutes.
The link for the series is here.
Does a viewer “care” enough about the premise to be committed to the series?  It seems oddly dated.  Curiously, the look of the series reminds me of HBO’s “Angels in America”, whose story takes place at the same time, but is much more personal , for me at least.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Anderson: Jacob Rudolph meets George Takei, talks about coming out in high school

The media has covered the speech by award-winning teen actor Jacob Rudolph who came out to his high school class in a speech to his high school class in Parsippany, NJ. 


Rudoph appeared on Anderson Cooper’s show Tuesday, Jan. 29, where Anderson introduced him to science fiction (Star Trek) actor George Takei, also openly gay (link).  
Anderson said that he was semi-out in high school, but not when he started working overseas as a journalist. 
The link for this episode of Anderson is here

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nev Schulman brings together an online gay male couple on "Catfish: The TV Show" (episode 10)

Last night (Monday, Jan. 28, 2013), I tried Nev Schulman’s “Catfish: The TV Show” at 11 PM EST (late, gets in the way of the news), on MTV.  I found out (the hard way) that Comcast apparently had moved the channel recently.  It was available in HiDef in the 800 series (884 in Arlington VA).

Let’s get the definition down:  A “catfish” is someone who creates a fake (“argo”) profile online using someone else’s pictures and life information, to attract romance.  The “catfish” is the perpetrator. So call "catfishing" the same as "Okie Noodling" (a small indie film from 2001) if you like. 

For Episode 10, Nev played counselor for a gay catfish situation, “Rico and Jo’Mari”.  Nev and his filmmaker friends travel to Bridgeport, CT (across a Long Island Sound ferry which I did not know exists) to meet Rico. Then they go down to Miami to meet Jo’Mari, and get the story.  Rico eventually gets over the “deception”.

What was striking was Nev’s (the full name is Yaniv Schulman)  interpersonal  and negotiating skills in handling gay dating.  The camera tended to make Nev the center of eye attention, as the most attractive person in the show, rather than the subjects. During the show, he wears a carpal tunnel support brace on his left wrist.  

Nev is always quite articulate, but there’s no classic line here like there was in the Catflish movie. Remember, “Oh, my, God: complete psychopath!”

The AP Youtube video is interesting (video is a bit dusky):

The link for the episode vide is here. Technically, the outdoor scenes look great in hi-def on the actual show (not the video above).  

It’s interesting that MTV (Music Television, owned by Viacom and Paramount Pictures)  presumably shells out travel expenses to track down and facilitate  all these online relationships. 

Nev had also appeared on Katie (Couric) Monday.  

I was last in the Miami area myself in 2004, bur I visited Coconut Grove way back in 1978. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real" on Discovery Curiosity series

Sunday night, Jan. 27, 2013, the Discovery Channel aired the two hour self-annotated documentary, “Monster Squid: The Giant Is Real”, link here.

The film is part of a series called “Curiosity” sponsored by the University of Phoenix, which interspersed the narrative with trivial facts.

At the end of the film, a three-person team near Japan finally saw a giant squid in underwater light for the first time.  It seemed to total about 28 feet in length, including the longest arm.  It fed on bait – a smaller squid carcass.  Earlier, the team found smaller squid and indirect evidence of the predator.

The squid is a mollusk, and invertebrate, and perhaps (besides the cuttlefish or some octopus) the most intelligent invertebrate animal known.  It has three hearts and a three-part, segmented brain, and seems very much like “alien” life.

The style of the documentary was rhetorical, often retracing its own steps (like some History Channel films, notably “Pompeii” in 2004), possibly because of sponsorhip.  This tends to be annoying.  It would be better to write the script as if it were a theatrical film.

I can recall, when I made filmstrips at age 11, making a “movie” called “sea monsters”.  But, no squids came on deck and ate crew members.

The film did show the cramped conditions under which researchers work during dives.   

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA picture of squid beak.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

CNN's Lemon interviews O'Meara about being "catfished"

On Saturday, January 26, 2013, Don Lemon on CNN examined the “catfishing” problem, by interviewing Diane O’Meara, whose picture was misappropriated to become a fictitious girlfriend “Lennay Kekua” for Manti Te’o.   (More on Kekua voice on CBS here. )
There is a similar interview on the NBC Today show this week.

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Lemon also interviewed Manti.  He insisted that he was totally straight, and could not give much of a reason for being fooled.  Nev Schulman (in the film “Catflish”, link) didn’t appear on Lemon’s show but probably should have. Schulman would appeal to my own eye more than Manti. It does seem that a lot of guys have fallen for fictitious females on the Web. I'm not sure how it works the other way around.  In the gay world, men are likely to want to "see" before they "believe: and play the "Doubting Thomas" game.  Yet, there is a recent gay film about the catfish possibility, "Is It Just Me?", Movies blog, Jan. 21, 2013.  "Catflish is on the movies blog Sept. 24, 2010.  

Experts on CNN have offered the advice that anyone who posts his or her own image on line get them cataloged on the image directory on Google, which is “”.

I found that images I have ever posted online appear, but they are individually addressable.  My Facebook image under my legal name is here
The experts advise checking the image occasionally to see if it has been misused.

What this would not do is prevent others from taking a picture of you and misappropriating it, although you can stop if from being tagged on Facebook.  This could be one reason why people have become much more sensitive in the last eighteen months or so about cell phone picture taking in bars and discos.  Two years ago, nobody worried about it. Anderson Cooper and Parry Aftab covered the issue last spring, and legal changes in the future might occur. It would sound as though misappropriation of an image without permission might relate to a "right of publicity" tort.  

Dr. Phil also interviewed the "hoaxer" who said he had a gay crush on Manti -- and Dr. Phil questioned the man on how he thought he could get over something he had been born with, ABC link

Picture: A red fox in the flowerbed.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Later Nightline covers Shaun White, and sugar daddies

I caught ABC Nightline at its later time Friday night, and was glad to see Shaun White snowboarding near Aspen, CO.  This time, he was completely covered in a black uniform, like Darth Vader.  No red hair this time,


There was also a report about the free food that Google offers its employees, and the rearrangement of the company cafeteria to make the healthful foods the easiest to find.  Doesn’t a salad with fresh beets and onions (or an Angelika “autumn salad”) look good?
And, there was also a story on rich older men almost expected to become sugar daddies for nubile young women, to the consternation of George Gilder. 

On Jimmy Kimmel, Matt Damon said "It isn't your fault."  That was Robin Williams's line to Matt's character in "Good Will Hunting".

I see that I had covered Shaun's appearance on NBC (winter Olympics) Feb. 17, 2010.   Shaun is now 26, old enough. Check Wikipedia.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

NBC "Rock Center" shows "iDoctor" monitoring heart patients by cell phone apps

A report on NBC Rock Center with Brian Williams, “iDoctor”, with Nancy Snyderman Thursday, January 24, 2013), depicts the work of cardiologist and inventor Eric Topol. 

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The report concerned the way physicians can diagnose and monitor patients, especially with heart disease, with apps to be loaded on the patients’ smart phones. 

The most radical idea is to implant tiny wireless transmitters  non-invasively (perhaps with laproscopic surgery or with a thread through the groin), or maybe even by injection (like the “nanobots” of the UPN science fiction show “Jake 2.0” a few years ago, with Christopher Gorham as a technician who gets powers from an accidental injection of nanobots).  The apps on the patient’s wireless smart phone monitors the patient and calls the doctor when it detects irregularities.

More conventional ideas are to use smart phones to report electrocardiograms and even echocardiograms (which normally depend on ultrasound).  A unit made by a company named AliveCor (link ) is clipped to the smart phone (which may have to specifically be an iPhone – not sure if other brands like Motorola work, but they probably will in time).  There are various ways then to read heart rhythms.  They may be as simple as touching the device with two fingers, attaching conventional leads to all ten fingers, or by attaching conventional (10-12) leads to the chest and limbs in a conventional pattern.  Presumably, leads could themselves have tiny wireless transmitters, to transfer data to the AliveCor unit.  The video shows a relatively young male heart patient, who notes that he doesn’t have to deal (the “humiliation” of) with having his chest shaved, although that’s a matter of how leads work.  The broadcast didn’t over issues like skin oils, moisture, hair, or other issues that affect conductivity.  (Shaving for an electrocardiogram isn’t usually necessary, but it would be for 24-hour Holter monitorting  -- see my “Bill Retires” blog, Sept. 3, 2011.  I remember a nurse’s reassuring me about this in a Minneapolis hospital in 1998 before I had a six-hour operation after a fall in a convenience store had resulted in a hip acetabular fracture).

Remember that gritty scene early in "Apollo 13" where the astronauts are fitted with heart monitors?  

Topol once saved a patient's life on an airplane with the device.  

Will we all be monitored most of the time in the future?  Imagine the ritual games that could evolve.  

Wikipedia attribution link for echocardiogram  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Piers Morgan interviews filmmaker of "Valentine Road", about anti-gay school violence

Last night, Piers Morgan discussed the new Sundance film “Valentine Road” with producer Eddie Schmidt and director Marta Cunningham. 

In February 2008. An eight grade middle school student in Oxnard, CA Brandon McInery shot and killed Larry King in class.  The film supposes that Brandon thought that King had a “crush” on him.  The interview on Morgan said that  one juror amazing sympathetic to the feelings of the perpetrator. 

The film is at Sundance, and is an official selection.  I wasn’t able to find any information on local theatrical runs or DVD’s yet.

The contact link for the film seems to be here

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PBS Frontline"The Untouchables": why weren't Wall Street moguls prosecuted for 2008?

On Tuesday, January 22, 2013, PBS Frontline presented an episode “The Untouchables”, written and directed by Martin Smith, exploring why no Wall Street executives (outside the Bernie Madoff world) were prosecuted for the financial practices that led to the Financial Crisis of 2008.
A link for the show (through WGBH) is here.

Much of the early part of the broadcast focuses on Countrywide and on the lending practices.  One manager tells of seeing a car with the placard reading “Fund It”.  That means, don’t worry about the creditworthiness of a home purchaser – don’t worry about income, jobs or credit history. Just process the loan.  We’ll dice it up, securirtize it.
The documentary also shows how the “due diligence underwriting” became a scam.

In fact, in my own “retirement”, I got some unsolicited phone calls around 2006 and 2007 to sell mortgages.  I didn’t bite.  It was too good to be true.  How could any of this continue working for long?  It was such an obvious Ponzi scheme.  Houses can’t go up forever. The tone of some of these approaches was rather offensive, as if I could prove that I could "provide for a family" by hucksterizing junk. 

Smith interviews Lanny Breuer, of the Department of Justice, who says that it is very difficult to take what seem like unethical lending practices and build them into a case that can prove a crime to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” necessary for a criminal conviction.
Smith also mentions a documentary film “Confidence Game”,by Nick Vernistky.  It isn’t on Netflix yet, and I couldn’t find it on Amazon.  The film apparently tracks the investigations done by private law firm Patterson Belknap.

Along the lines of moral behavior – are people who took out silly loans personally responsible for believing they could get something for nothing? – one could read Michelle Singletary “Are we ready to recognize economic reality?” in the Washington Post, p. A10, Wednesday January 23, 2013, here.  Online, the title is “Are we ready for change?”  The column was motivated by President Obama’s inaugural speech.  I certainly get her later points about low wage jobs and how the middle class (let alone the rich) lives off work done by the poor (or at least by policies that slight the needs of the poor).  But are we all ready for Mao’s solution of making everyone take his turn becoming a peasant?  The books by Barbara Ehrenreich ("Nickel and Dimed", where she "paid her dues" as a low-wage worker), come back to mind.  

Let's not forget the 1987 Brian de Palma film "The Untouchables".  Saw it in Dallas. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"The Abolitionists" Part III: Lincoln, Emancipation, and Abolition

Part III of “The Abolitionists” on PBS American Experience starts with a meeting between Frederick Douglass and John Brown in Chambersburg, PA.  Douglass is astounded at the danger of the planned raid in Harper’s Ferry and goes back to Philadelphia.  After Brown is caught, he practically tries his captors before he is hanged, and Douglass has to escape to Canada, to return in 1860 after Congress agrees not to go after abolitionists.

The film explains the Dred Scott decision, which might have made the entire country permanently "slave". 

Abraham Lincoln gets elected in the new Republican Party, but waffles on whether he will try to end slavery, in order keep the Union together.  He prepares his emancipation order, but then proposes that slaveowners can keep their slaves until 1900. Lincoln even proposes that blacks should emigrate, and that the Union will be white only.  Finally Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. It would take a constitutional amendment, as in the film “Lincoln”, to actually guarantee that the slaves are freed, and to join emancipation with abolition (two good concepts to compare on an essay question on an American History test).

The variability of Lincoln on the slavery issue will surprise a lot of viewers.

Garrison's life proved how much one media person (in his case, a newspaper "printer") could do by "keeping them honest".  

Monday, January 21, 2013

With modern digital television, you see much more of the Inauguration if you don't go; Obama speech makes equality for LGBT people a civil rights issue

Given the crowds and the cold wave coming through, it’s a lot easier to watch everything indoors on a high definition television screen.  I watched NBC, ABC, and CNN; CNN had the least intrusion from its own trademarks. 

Around 11:45 AM there was a stirring, "soul, spiritual" version of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic", not the Fred Waring version from the 1950s.

Joseph Biden retook the oath of office, and expanded statement, from Justice Sotomayor, at 11:55 AM, and at high noon, President Barack Obama took the public oath, a shorter sentence, from Justice Roberts.

The weather was cloudy, breezy and cold, about 40 degrees, with a few melting snow grains in the air as an Arctic cold front comes through.

Mrs. Obama and the two daughters made a interesting visual palette based on “the color purple”. 
The White House has its own growing account here

But everyone is talking about the detail into which the president went during his Inaugural speech. The President seems to be monitoring the Blogosphere and got into areas about the dual nature of personal responsibility actually somewhat known in libertarian circles, but not that often articulated in political speeches.  He said that freedom may be a gift from God, but its “execution” is up to people. "Preserving freedom for all individuals may require collective action."  He said that social safety programs do not make us a “nation of takers” (see Books blog, Dec. 2), but enables Americans to take the risks necessary (economically) to innovate and  (personally) to raise families, given the fact that unpredictable hardship can happen to almost anyone, regardless of his or her level of “personal responsibility”.   He said that some things cannot be done without common effort.  No one person, he said, can train all the math and science teachers we need.  (Is he referring to Salman Khan and his entertaining videos for teaching math and so many other subjects?)  Even so, he backed away from a heavy hand on volunteerism and national service. 

Some commentators compared him to Ronald Reagan, who emphasized individualism, by adding the importance of unity and collective action together.

Obama emphasized the importance on acting on climate change, so that we do not steal the planet from future generations or the unborn (turning conservative arguments on themselves).  He said that the free market needs consistent rules (regulation) to ensure a fair (and "just") playing field. 

He also spoke about Stonewall and Selma (and Seneca Falls) in one sentence, and said that equality for gay Americans should be seen as a civil rights issue.

The Los Angeles Times has already published this speech, here.  

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Kelly Clarkson sang "God Bless America". Beyonce sang the National Anthem, with a little embellishment at the end. There has been some controversy over whether Beyonce pantomimed the anthem from a recording, and whether the Marine Corps band, which had little time to prepare, did the same.
Poet Richard Blanco read the text of his "One Day" (here). 

After the speech, Anderson Cooper,  on CNN, explained in detail the history of the Stonewall “rebellion” in New York City in 1969.  Don Lemon interviewed some say men (both black and white), apparently from NYC, on the Mall. 

Later, on his own AC360, Anderson would explain that in the 1960s gays were not allowed even to congregate in bars without being harassed, and this changed quickly after Stonewall.  (There were, however, police false arrests in Dallas gay bars as late as 1980, when I was living there.)

The coverage (on all networks) then moved to the inaugural luncheon in the Capitol Rotunda. Only about 230 people are on the invitation list.  The actual dinner service is not televised.  I hope they didn’t serve Cornish game hen (like SLDN did in 2004).  Bill Clinton probably will have his vegan Portobello mushroom.

One picture here comes from a party at the Stonewall in NYC in March 2012.    


The parade included the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA), in purple.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Play hookey from Sunday School: Obama's private imauguration at 11:55 AM runs without a hitch, "return code 0000"

Today, CNN (and presumably all other major stations) carried the official inauguration of President Barack Obama in the Blue Room at the White House by Chief Justice Roberts, with wife Michelle Obama and both daughters present, at 11:55 AM.

Even thought the "public" ceremony on the Capitol steps will occur Monday January 21 (Martin Luther King's Holiday), the constitutional requirement for the swearing in is before noon on January 20 (statistically the coldest day of the year in Washington DC).  Until 1937, they took place on March 4.

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Curiously, NBC had aired “Meet the Press” and followed with President Obama’s weekly address followed by a Republican response (by a Congressman from Oklahoma), finishing only about three minutes before the official swearing in.  It was a close call for NBC.

This time, there was no flubbing of the lines.
I saw Vice President Joseph Biden’s swearing in later, at about 5 PM, by Justice Sotomayor. 

Early on Sunday morning, Obama attended a preliminary (private) ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.  Weather was mild in Washington.  

From tje Kennedy Center, from John Kennedy, Jan. 20, 1961, when I was a senior in high school:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

NBC Rock Center looks at Scientology's "exiles", at a girls's school in Kenya, and at Lance Armstrong's "coming clean"

On “Rock Center with Brian Williams” on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2011, there were two episode about whaht happens when you “Quit  Scientology”.

Harry Smith interviewed Paul Haggis (director of the 2006 film “Crash”), about his decision to leave. Haggis talked early in the episode about his opposition to Proposition 8 in California, and being told incorrectly that his behavior contradicted the teaching of the church.

Haggis explained that Scientology is based on the idea that one can be free of unwanted emotions.
There was more detail about how the Church works in the interview with Lawrence Wright, author of “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief” (Knopf, 2012).   Wright explained the subset of the church called “Sea Org”, and a couple apparently cannot become part of that subset if it wants to have children.  (This sounds like something that might be questioned.)  Wright told the story of a family that decided it wanted to leave the church, and was forced to separate from his daughter. The family also was apparently pursued financially, and the parents stayed in a windowless apartment for ten weeks while they contemplated leaving.

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The interview takes the position that the Church of Scientology has taken advantage of its legal status as a religion, to exert apparent enormous control over its members and behave litigiously against its enemies.
Wright describes some of the internals of the Scientology faith, including the progression into levels of esoteric initiation, called “Operating Thetan”.  There are seven or more levels of OT. At one of the levels, initiates are told that their bodies have been used by aliens. 

I personally believe that it is very likely that there are many civilizations comparable to ours in the Milky Way.  Inhabitants might indeed be more like us than we think, and perhaps even souls can move from one world to another in incarnations.  That sounds reasonable me.  Maybe Clive Barker got it right with his “five dominions” in his novel “Imajica”.  So some of the ideas of L Ron Hubbard could make sense (as far as physics is concerned), even if some of the practices of a group that follow his ideas don’t sound ethically right.

Wright also described Scientology’s reported litigiousness. Wikiepdia has a lot of discussion of this (as well as of the Church as a whole), look here. Wikipedia describes the litigation against the Cult Awareness Network in the 1990s, which I recall being covered in the Washington Post.  Wikipedia mentions an attempt by Scientology to claim, in the Netherlands, that someone who links to copyrighted material is guilty of copyright infringement, and also of an attempt to hold a service provider in the US for “downstream  liability” for copyright infringement in “Religious Technologyc Center v. Netcom”, a case that might have precipitated the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and which could provide psychological incentives for Congress to pass downstream tort immunity (Section 230) in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Later in the broadcast, Chelsea Clinton, “on assignment”, presented “Shining Hope”, a school for girls in Kibera, Kenya, a city in which poor residents live without utilities and without law and order.  One young woman, who had wanted to go to college and medical school, had been forced into arrange marriage at 14.  She now said that she had hopes that her own daughter to be educated.  People in this culture have to live through the hope of their children, not just themselves.   It would be interesting to see Chelsea Clinton examine the background for the vehemently antigay bills proposed in nearby Uganda, in a culture where people believe procreation is a moral responsibility to parents.

Bob Costas also discussed Lance Armstrong’s “confession” on Oprah’s OWN network (previous post).  The idea of putting your body through blood transfusions just to be more competitive sounds shocking.  In theory, a sport could set up the rules any way it wants.  But the sport wants to be limited by the natural human body.  Theoretically, shaving down could be improper (although it hardly could make any difference  -- does wind resistance really matter?)  Why is winning at any cost so important?   I say, never trust a smooth man (if artificially so).  Remember Jacob and Esau.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oprah takes Lance Armstrong's confession and "deposition"; he shaved his legs for nothing all these years

Oprah Winfrey is broadcasting her interview with Lance Armstrong in two 90-minute segments, on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 and Friday, Jan. 18, from a hotel room in Austin, TX.

The link for the show is here

Armstrong is 41 now, and looks considerably older and more weathered than he does even in tapes from 2005.

Oprah started out by asking “Yes/No” questions, like a true-false test. He said “yes” to all the questions on doping, and use various banned substances.
Armstrong admitted he had acted as a “bully”.  He “owned” the team, had the power to remove riders, although he denies he “fired” riders who wouldn’t dope.  But he admitted that it was impossible to win a ride without doping. 

Armstrong also admits suing people for telling the truth about his activities. 

Armstrong admitted that he didn’t have any feelings about doing wrong by doping, controlling others, or lying.  He felt that this was the culture, and his “momentum”.  He felt that he lived in a “winner takes all” world.  So you cheat.

Armstrong wouldn’t talk about other riders or collaborators by name.

Anderson Cooper AC360 covered the doping scandal tonight at 10 PM.  Betsy Andreu was on AC360.

ESPN has a video and partial transcript of tonight’s interview here

Armstrong had apparently been using the substances before he was diagnosed with testicular cancer around age 25.  The disease became dramatic, and he was coughing up blood before starting treatment, and he could have died.  Could the substances have caused the cancer?

I’ve made light of all this on Twitter before, saying that he shaved his legs for 25 years for nothing (even though he partook of testosterone).  

Seriously, do we have any role models any more?

Later, CNN spoke to Jeffrey Tillitson in Dallas tonight.  Tillitson had deposed Armstrong under oath, and said he wanted the $12.5 million back and that his client would sue for it.  He also expressed disgust that Armstrong would say "how could you hurt kids with cancer?" in questioning him, or question someone who had recovered from testicular cancer himself.  Yes, he really said this on CNN tonight. (Armstrong no longer heads Live Strong.)  
Pictures (mine):  downtown Austin, TX Nov. 2011;  a latrine sign at a Hooter's in Waco. TX;  how to beat a drug test. 

PBS Frontline: "Inside Obama's Presidency"

On Tuesday, January 15, PBS Frontiline broadcast “Inside Obama’s Presidency”.
Watch Inside Obama's Presidency on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

The one hour documentary gave the impression that Obama’s “reign” has come a long way from the early days of dealing with the bailouts and the Financial Crisis of 2008, into having to deal with the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 (and again in 2013) and the fiscal cliff.  The idea that the debt ceiling would be challenged so soon after a major financial crisis is made to look improbable.  The technicalities of the debt ceiling crisis, however, are not explained.  I think the details of this problem and how it would really be handled if it happens would make a good Frontline program itself. 

The film also shows how he passed health care reform (“Obamacare”) with zero  Republican votes in the House.   This was the “must” achievement of his presidency.

And Obama took over the war on terror, promising to slowly disengage, but sill pursuing “Obama’s War”:, as Bob Woodward calls it, leading to the raid to take out Osama bin Laden. 

There will be a sequel documentary on the plans for the second term.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"The Abolitionists" Part II: a former slave publishes his own life

Part II of the PBS American Experience film “The Abolitionists”  (Jan. 9) focused particularly on the biography of Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery in southern Maryland.

He worked in odd jobs, supporting his wife and family while evading bounty hunters, and settled in Massachusetts.  Eventually he teamed up with William Lloyd Garrison and, at considerable risk, became a spokesperson for abolition.

He also authored and somehow had published (self-published?) a book “A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” in which he named his former owner, which eventually added to the jeopardy he was in, when the owner found out.  He did not keep a low profile.

The film also described the politics of the Great Compromise, over the entry of new states based on territory acquired during the Mexican war.  One result was that it was illegal to even promote abolition, and even in northern states, white men could be “conscripted” as bounty hunters.

In fact, some people claim that the Second Amendment was based in part on the practice in the south of “drafting” militia of young men as bounty hunters. 

The film also told the story of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Katie Couric show presents "The War on Human Trafficking"

On Thursday, Katie Couric (on her syndicated show “Katie”) presented Jada Pinkett Smith in a report on human trafficking, especially of young girls The show recounted horrible tales of young women sold into sexual slavery even by their own parents, in poverty or from non-democratic cultues.  The segment is titled “The War on Human Trafficking”.

The link for the show (and included video) is here.  

The show fit in to the anti-trafficking initiative of actor-producer Ashton Kutcher, who used to say, “Real men don’t buy girls.”

Katie also presented Justin Dillon, from “Make a Free World”, presenting advice about how to buy products not made with slave labor overseas.

I couldn’t find a site for this group, but there is a wired story “32 Slaves Work for Me, How About You?” by Eric Blattenberg, here.  The notion of slavery footprint is discussed.  Huffington has an article. The Huffington Post has a bio of and article by Dillon here

Monday, January 14, 2013

Will's secret paternity blows up today on "Days": (Are "Will and Sonny" like "Nolan and Marco"?)

Well, President Obama commandeered the broadcast airwaves at noon to talk about the debt ceiling, the last news conference of his first term.  And he must have known that “Days of our Lives” would have a corker today.

Nick Fallon (Blake Berris) and Gabi Hernandez were at the marriage altar, with Eric about to pronounce them man and wife.  (Really!).  Even before McDonald Carey could do his hourglass  speech, Chad (Casey Job Deidrick) screams that Nick is not the father of Gabi’s baby.

In the ensuing scuffle, Chad says that he thinks the father is Melanie’s kidnapper (who died in a fire).  But Will feels pressured, and breaks down and confesses that he is the father in front of everybody.

Will goes out desperately looking for an enraged Sonny, when Lucas stops him and lectures him on the responsibilities of fatherhood.  Oh, please!
The “obvious” solution is for the writers to figure out how to have Sonny and Will make up (although I don’t see how could Sonny ever trust Will) and let Will and Sonny raise the baby as gay dads.  (Sonny had a great line, “On what planet?”)  Gabi is such an awful person, she can’t be a fit mother.  How in the world did Nick fall for her?  This makes no sense.  I understand that Nick wanted the baby as his because Gabi, already pregnant, could not have Nick’s baby. 
I look back, I still wonder why “Days” ruined Nick as a character and let him become a jerk.
The only character who seems unscathed morally is Sonny.   He really is the ideal dad. And Sonny has the business smarts to get rich, Trump style. 
“Days of our Lives” is following the path of well-known English Victorian novels, with hidden and mixed-up babies.

Remember, when Will slept with Gabi, he was trying to prove to his father that he could be "a man". 
Elsewhere, on ABC’s “Revenge”, Nolan Ross and Marco seem to keep making up, and then Nolan keeps firing Marco again.  Don’t hire your boyfriend.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bill Clinton addresses Congress, politicians from Golden Globes

Former president Bill Clinton spoke about the film “Lincoln” at the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills CA at the National Foreign Press Association  or, pardon, the Beverly Hills Hilton (relatively near my favorite West Hollywood area) Sunday night on NBC.

Clinton appeared to be trying to scold Congress and urge it and the President to get over partisan bickering and work together in the upcoming debt ceiling and budget negotiations.  He talked about how Lincoln had to work with Congress in the film, and the political hurdles Lincoln surpassed to get the final vote at the end of the film.  It’s a history lesson that Congress needs now.  Clinton said that Lincoln was an important example for future presidents.

Ben Affleck’s film “Argo” (however) won best dramatic picture, and “Les Miserables” won best musical. 
Ben Affleck, 40, also won the award for directing.  Affleck has been prodded to fill John Kerry’s seat in the Senate (as a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts).  That’s an ironic observation, given Clinton’s remarks.  Like Schwarzenegger, it seems like journalism and filmmaking seems to be viewed as a source of intellectual capital badly needed in public office. 

 I doubt that Affleck has thought much about the debt ceiling.

The Golden Globes website was overloaded and giving server errors. The winners are on MSNBC here

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ABC 20-20 looks at "fakes" on social media: recalling "Catfish" and "Catch Me If You Can"

Last night ABC 20-20 covered “Internet Fakes”   – like mini Argo’s (but not Dr. Phil's "Internet mistakes) – and Nev Schulman, the younger brotherand filmmaker  in the 2010 film “Catfish”, talked about what to be suspicious of in social media.


Yaniv Schulman (“Nev” is the nickname)  is the younger man who goes to Michigan chasing love in the indie hit “Catfish” (reviewed here Sept. 24, 2010). Now 28, he looked the same as in the movie, very lean, very appealing.

Earlier, 20-20 explained the “Warrior ELI” cancer hoax, leading eventually to a Mommy Blogger in South Africa, who put together a life story from purloined photos of others, as well  as a fake Canadian Mountie supposedly having eleven children.

20-20- also presented a modern “Catch Me If You Can” a film where Di Caprio played a fake everything)  story of a 17 year old performing medical tasks on patients in Florida.

The possibility of fakes and hoaxes is indeed an Achilles heel to the idea that online self-expression should be parsed into “friends lists” and should be directed at groups of recipients.  

Picture: A "Hobbit House" in Pennsvylvania 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Decoding Neanderthals" on PBS NOVA: we are all "black", and we are all Neanderthal

PBS Nova presented a revised documentary about the Neanderthals, “Decoding Neanderthals” which seems to update an earlier documentary “Becoming Human: Last Human Standing” Nov. 17, 2009. 
Researchers, largely in the Netherlands and Germany, compared the genomes of homo sapiens and Neanderthals in detail.  They found a common gene thought to be related to language.  They are fairly certain from art work left that the Neanderthals could communicate verbally.  They also discovered that the Neanderthals had been amazingly resourceful in working with flint to make spearheads and in making the glue and poles for their weapons.  We still can’t replicate how they cracked their flint into such effective shapes.

Researchers compared commonality of genes among Europeans, Africans, and Orientals.  They found that Africans have the lowest percentage of Neanderthal genes, less than 2%, that Orientals an Asians are in the middle (about 3%), and Europeans the most (5%), with the largest percentage in Tuscany (northern Italy).   That seems presumptive evidence that homo sapiens mated with Neanderthals and created fertile offspring, which makes Neanderthals part of our species (as a subspecies).   However, homo sapiens and Neanderthals don’t share maternally passed mitochondrial DNA.   It seems as though Neanderthal, dating back to 800000 BC,  were gradually absorbed by the newer humans that had come from Africa after 100000 BC.    The newer forms of humans seemed to have a slight advantage in innovation and passing it along to descendants in culture, which may be why the newer form dominated.

Some specific Neanderthal genes (and perhaps epigenes), however, seemed to contribute advantages in cellular immune function, particularly in the way HLA antigens work and maybe even in the way T-helper cells function. It sounds conceivable that this could help explain why HIV has been so readily transmitted by bi-directional heterosexual activity in Africa but much less so in the western world, a fact that would have “political” significance in the 1980s.

The opening scene of the film shows a handsome and slender European young man (almost breathtaking to look at, as far as “gay values” go), compared to a  bulky Neanderthal.  In fact, however, we (not just our president) are all “black” because we are all descended from Africa about 100000 years ago (or more) and benefit from some genetic changes that improved cognition (related to problem-solving and innovation and teaching) that we all know happened in Africa, as an adaption to complex food-gathering requirements.  We also all are a little bit Neanderthal, which may have strengthened our resistance to some infections and particularly some cancers.   Maybe we’ll find out we’re all Martians, or that we all came from Gliese 581G.

Certainly, all the new research tears all of the Nazi racial theories of the 1930s to shreds.

Did we acquire any appearance characteristics from the Neanderthals?  The lighter skin of Europeans is thought to be an adaptation to less sunlight, and the need to make vitamin D.  The heavier body hair (which had been sacrificed in Africa in order to remain cool during daytime hunting) may have come back in colder climates starting as an accident, and then become a secondary sexual characteristic to help men seem more desirable to female mates.  No one in science has said whether this could have come from Neanderthals, although some sci-fi movies form the 50s maintain that. 
The link for the film is here.

Another film for comparison is Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”, Jan. 23, 2013, movies blog. 

Picture: No, that's a gorilla from the DC zoo, March, 2007. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"The Education of Michelle Rhee" on PBS Frontline

On Tuesday, January 8, 2013, PBS Frontline aired a documentary “The Education of Michelle Rhee”.

Michelle Rhee was appointed chancellor of the District of Columbia public school system by mayor Fenty in 2007.

She became notorious for dismissing school principals and teachers who failed to meet new performance standards, measured in large part by student test scores.  She also closed some underperforming elementary schools.

The documentary shows a lot of live footage, as when she introduces herself as 37 years old and Korean.
The film shows a scene where she fires a principal.  “I am terminating your principalship”.

She met with all school administrators when she took over and warned them that some would not be around if they did not improve student performance.

Some staff would complain that they had no control over the violent conditions in which some kids grew up.
There was a scandal as to whether there were statistically too many erasures on the Scanlon test forms, and one staff member caught other teachers at one school changing tests to cheat. Although official audits found no cheating, the undercover story reduces the credibility to her claim that she increased scores by 10% in her first year.

The Huffington Post as a story about the twitter reaction to the film here

The PBS Frontline link is here

The film makes a lot of her personality.  Rhee’s mother had said that Michelle didn’t care what other people thought of her.  She was called “The Bee Eater” based on an incident in her student teaching (she really swallowed a bee that she had swatted in a classroom).

I sometime think that if she weren’t 14 years older than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, they might have made a perfect couple.  They strike me as a lot alike.
Here byline was “I am going to start a revolution”.  But not like on NBC; the power needs to stay on. 

See the "films about schools" label on my Movies blog for comparative reviews of films like "Waiting for Superman" (Oct., 2010), in which Michelle Rhee appears:  "Race to Nowhere";  "American Teacher", and "The Lottery".  

"The Abolitionists": 3-hour series starts on PBS American Experience, an answer to "Lincoln"

The PBS series  American Experience aired the first hour (of three) of “The Abolitionists”  January 8, 2013 at 9 PM.  The series is directed by Rob Rapley. 

The first hour focused very largely the career of William Lloyd Garrison who, in the late 1820s, became convinced that the freeing of slaves could no longer be a gradual process of their freedom being bought so that slaves could be returned to Africa, but instead a sudden, revolutionary act to cure a moral evil.
Garrison would start a newsletter called “The Liberator” in Boston.  Soon he would be the subject of threats and bounty hunts from the South.  The idea of “law and order” seems not to have existed in these days, as upstarts had to learn to get others to watch their backs.

Garrison also wrote what was called a “manifesto” in the series (a keyword for people who know me for my own “Manifesto” in 1997).  Wikipedia has a large index of his writings here. One of his important pieces was a response to Nat Turner’s Rebellion.

Garrison's story shows how a journalist can make enemies -- although his style of reporting was not necessarily neutral by modern standards, but weighted toward his own moral views.

Actually the series starts with the story of a young southern woman Angelina Grimke, who grew up in an environment where multiple slaves tended to the most personal of needs, including passing food at the family dinner.  Eventually she would write to Garrison, and move north to join his efforts. The family questions, who is she to question how things are (I've had people say that to me), and the family gets threats, too.  
The latter part of the first hour begins the story of John Brown.

The link for the series is here

Taken as a whole, the series seems to be a counterweight to the Dreamworks-Disney film “Lincoln” (Movies blog, Nov. 17), to show where the real abolitionism grew.  The film has several scenes showing great cruelty by the owners.  

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

NBC's "Deception": the concept is underwhelming

Not every new television series demonstrates what literary agents call “conceptualization”.  NBC’s new winter series “Deception” may be one of those – something more like a situational gimmick than anything that we can “learn” from.  Oh, well, “that’s entertainment”.  And, oh yes,  “Deception” is the opposite of “Inception” – something I learned a lot from (as a movie) in 2010.

The series, created by Liz Heldens, with the Pilot Monday night (January 8, 2013) directed by Peter Horton, supposes that young black woman  Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good) has grown up as a domestic’s daughter in a wealthy household “back East” around New York City.  She’s left home, and made it good as an aggressive uniformed police officer in San Francisco.  When the family heiress dies (seemingly with a drug overdose involved) she is invited (by FBI agent Will Moreno, played by Laz Alonso, suspecting foul play) to go back and work undercover.  She finds herself in the thick of things when she attends the funeral.

There’s an interesting scene when she finds a “peeping Tom” hiding in a tree, and chases him and catches him, not letting him escape from the property down a ravine. 

It’s a bit of a stretch, in my mind, that someone could go back to a childhood home and work undercover and not be recognized. 

I’m not sure that the viewer will care much about “who did it”, any more than they would in a game of Clue (maybe even played on a “Family Home Evening”).

NBC’s official site is here.   

NBC is said to be holding back on the resumption of “Revolution” because of the public’s perception of militia violence after the events in Connecticut.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Piers Morgan interviews Alex Jones (who arranged the deportation petition) on CNN; Jones rants in a shouting match

Piers Morgan just interviewed Alex Jones on his CNN Interview program, a few minutes ago.  Alex Jones arranged the petition (on the White House site) to have Piers Morgan deported to Britain.  There are various other petitions, some to stop a deportation, some to keep Morgan out of Britain!  The Politco link is here

For fifteen minutes, Alex ranted on the show, constantly and rudely interrupting Morgan, acting like the entire world was full of conspiracies and that he needed his arsenal at home to “protect his family”.
Jones also said that President George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11. 

He also said, “Why should I give up my own weapon just because there are criminals?”  Right, why do we have to give up things because of other people’s problems?  (See “BillBooushka” blog entry Dec. 18, 2012.)

He also said, "1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms".   
As far as his facts about violence in countries that have strict gun control, he does sound way off base.

Morgan then interviewed Alan Dershowitz, and then sheriff Joe Arpauo from Phoenix, who wants armed volunteers (or a posse) near schools.  He says this is already done near shopping malls.

There seems to be a mentality (on the survivalist right) that we should all live on our own, protecting our blood families, armed against enemies  the way people were during feudal times. 

The White House has said that it will respond to Jones's petition.  

Subsequently,  Less Grossman published Alex Jone's "threat" to Piers Morgan of a 1776-style revolution:

I think this broadcast could be compared to ABC Nightline's coverage (Jan. 9, first time at 12:35 AM) of "sovereign citizens" the narrative of Robert Peterson in Coeur d'Alene Idaho (which I visited in 1990), here

Sunday, January 06, 2013

CNN Next List: Jim McKelvey, on "Square", book publishing, and Beethoven

On Sunday, January 06, 2013, Sanjay Gupta on CNN presented Jim McKelvey on his “Next List”, as a “21st Century Renaissance Man” from St. Louis.  I remember a co-worker friend back in the 1970s who described himself as a wannabe “renaissance man”.  I’ve lost track of him, but he did get a paper published in mathematics while I worked there (the Navy Dept). 
McKelvey, 47, is an entrepreneur in several areas.  He is best known for his “Square” , a mobile payments service, and his Third Degree Glass Factory. 

His comments about book publication caught my attention.  He said that it used to be that the collaboration between author, editor, literary agent, and publisher (as performing separate functions) created real value for readers.  Much of that is being lost in today’s culture of self-publishing on e-books.  His own publishing services company is called “Mira Smart”, which is an outgrowth or rebirth of an early pre-Internet publishing services venture.  The link is here. I’m not sure how his company fits into today’s world of supported self-publishing.
McKelvey mentioned the idea that many kids who go wrong could have become programmers. But then, some of them become hackers!
An interesting segment shows McKelvey playing the last (Presto) movement (not the famous first movement) of the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata #14 in C# Minor (“Quasi una fantasia”).  He says that he found piano lessons frustrating but became fascinating by what get conveyed by the notation. Performing music makes people smarter.  I see it all the time. 
Here’s an account on Patch link.  

McKelvey has a particular interest in keeping business and human talent in older cities like his native St. Louis.  His ideas could work in Detroit.  

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of St. Louis  I’ve been there many times, in 1961, 1992, 2000.