Thursday, February 28, 2013

AC360 airs "The Bully Effect" to follow up on Hirsch film


Tonight, Anderson Cooper’s AC360 aired the one-hour report “The Bully Effect”, to follow up on the documentary  film “Bully” one year ago (review on Movies bog, April 14, 2012), by Lee Hirsch (from The Weinstein Company).
   
The teenager Alex appeared, and seemed to have outgrown his past and is now a bit of a celebrity. Of course, he is now much more mature than he was when the film was shot.

The early part of the CNN report focuses heavily on physical bullying, and it seems shocking that school systems tolerate it.  
 . 
  
Anderson also conducts a panel discussion, explaining how bullying is much worse in some ways now than it used to be because of social media, and this may affect girls more than boys. 
  
The hour did some followup from the film as there is more progress in developing interest in hate crimes bills in Congress. 
  
The program aired a particularly disturbing excerpt from the Hirsch film, where a middle school guidance counselor blames the victim of bullying for not forgiving the tormentor and “meaning it” when she makes him shake hands.  That makes him as guilty as the perpetrator, according to her.  It would appear that this particular female teacher wants to impress on the victim that it is "his" responsibility to develop and share the perils of the group, and to focus on his responsibility, not on the wrong done to him by others.  Of course, in this situation it comes across as cruel.  The administrators really don't stop the aggression by others.  And later a school administrator tells parents she can’t stop bullying on school buses.

The documentary emphasizes the responsibility of bystanders, and defines the "bystander effect" with a class exercise.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"The View" presents a case for "immortality"


ABC’s “The View” today had a brief report on “immortality” from a particular Dr. Sam Parnia, who told the story of a heart attack patient who came back to life after being deceased for 47 minutes, a record.
It is possible for many cells in the body, including the brain, to survive a whole hour (maybe longer if at low temperatures) after official pronouncement of death.

Could this sort of discovery lead to even more untoward attempts to prolong the lives of the elderly as long as possible?

ABC, a couple years ago, presented an episode with Barbara Walters, "Live to 150" (here, Aoril 1, 2008).  Walter has since had life-saving heart value surgery.  

But "immortality" would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In fact, living things reproduce and develop consciousness to oppose entropy.  
   
The heart attack patient in today's show spoke of going to a place where there is no pain.  He did not report specific encounters with light or loved ones.

The link for the ABC View episode today is here
  
It’s possible to image the afterlife as a state where one is conscious of the hearts and deepest intentions of everyone on his life (and vice versa) but cannot “experience” anything.
  
Perhaps (as is a concept in my novel manuscript), one could experience brief dream-like snapshots of the life of another living person connected to him or her, as that person saw him, leading back to his or her own memories.  And that preferred other person would have to experience corresponding dream experiences (a little bit like the layers in the film :Inception”).

There is a type of jellyfish which mimics immortality by reverting to a larval state and regenerating. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

ABC Nightline covers international sting in Philippines involving minors, recalls similar NBC series


On Monday, February 25, ABC Nightline aired a report ("Investigation: Alleged Underage Prostitution in the Philippines") on the investigation and arrest (with customs or ICE agents) in the Philippines of a businessman, Arthur Benjamin, for running a prostitution ring to employe underage girls. 
  
The ABC report (written by Alexander Marquardt and Alex Waterfield from Subic Bay is quite detailed, and the descriptive link is here.

Police looked at the girls teeth to determine whether they were underage.  That tends to suggest a lower age-of-consent than in the United States.

Benajamin showed up 45 minutes late for the tense sting setup. 

The report recalls a similar series by NBC Dateline, “To Catch a Predator”, where NBC reporter Chris Hansen participated in setting up the stings (see recap. Nov. 15, 2009).  It would actually be interesting to follow up on exactly what happened to some of the more high-profiled defendants, such as Rabbi David Kaye, or a cancer researcher in California.  As with the sting in the Philippine, most of the cases on NBC actually were heterosexual.  NBC Dateline would be better equipped to do this than any independent filmmaker.
  
The report reminds one of the effort by Ashton Kutcher (“aplusk” on Twitter) and Demi Moore to fight trafficking abroad.  Ashton once said on Piers Morgan, “Real men don’t buy girls.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tyson warns Zakaria on GPS: be alert for asteroids and space weather; civilization could just have to start over


Sunday, Feb. 24, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Columbia University) appeared on Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square (GPS) and warned that the advanced world really needs to get serious about making sure it can identify and defect major space objects, such as asteroids the size that just missed the Earth on Feb. 15.


A meteor the size of a football field could destroy a major city.  The Russian meteor Feb. 15 (unrelated to the asteroid) was on the borderline of being destructive

But an asteroid of larger size, maybe 2000 feet or so in diameter, could wipe out the power grid for much of the world.  Even if mankind were not made extinct, civilization would have to “start over” as he put it. That does fit into Doomsday Prepper mentality.

It should be possible to deflect almost any asteroid capable of destroying civilization if it is detected in time. But if it is known that an asteroid will not hit for another hundred years, there could be a political problem in getting funding, leaving it to future generations. 

A real doomsday could mean that people would not have children.
   
The program did not get into the power grid vulnerability to coronal mass ejections from solar flares (possible in periods of high sunspot activity, like now), or electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from rogue states  (North Korea) or terrorists.

CNN has advertised aggressive commercials from Habitat for Humanity which says it needs volunteers "in every community."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

ABC News host returns from bone marrow transplant, story on 20-20



ABC 20-20 covered the medical journey of GMA anchor Robin Roberts, 52, through a mysterious blood malignancy (like a pre-leukemia or lymphoma) that followed her successful treatment of breast cancer in 2007.  She had to undergo a complete stem cell  bone marrow transplant from her sister.  She had to accept the "gift".
  
Her own mother suffered a fatal stroke during this.
  
The chemotherapy before the transplant totally wipes out the immune system.  She had ten days of intense chemotherapy before the transplant injection. Then she slowly came back to health, in complete isolation.
  
After weeks, she was allowed out of the hospital, and went to her Gulf Coast home.  She has the immune system of a baby and says this hard because she is a “hugger” as part of her southern background.

At the end of the broadcast, she was interviewed by Diane Sawyer and she believes a nurse saved her from passing away once.

This was an upbeat episode. 


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Friday, February 22, 2013

PBS Nature presents crows as among the most intelligent of animals, who can recognize individual people


On February 20, 2013, PBS Nature presented “A Murder of Crows”, an examination of the most intelligent of all bird species.

On the Monday afternoon that Hurricane Sandy was approaching, I walked outside the garage twice to check things, and twice a crow flew down and drove me back inside.  He seemed to recognize me and want to warn me that a storm was coming. This wild animal seemed to care about my safety. He was an avian "Richard Parker".
  
Crows are able to learn to recognize individual people, and even pass on this knowledge to other members of their families (including young) and social groups.
  
Crows do not have the largest brains of birds (parrots do), but they seem to have the most complex. 
Crows (corvids) developed their intelligence for two main reasons:  they are omnivores, and have to learn more to eat a wide variety of foods than would just a seed eater.  And they have extended families, based on monogamous “marriage”, something social conservatives will like. 
  
Experiments show that parents teach young crows to recognize people, and also to make tools.  Only elephants and chimpanzees, besides man, can make tools.  There was a demonstration of how a crow cracks a nut by dropping it from the right height, and even understands how traffic signals work.
  

Watch A Murder of Crows on PBS. See more from Nature.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for crow picture. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

PBS "After Newtown" series continues with more science


On Wednesday, February 21, 2013, PBS Nova aired “Mind of a Rampage Killer",  as the latest “NOVA” episode in its “After Newtown” series.
  
The material was somewhat similar to the NatGeo “Science of Evil”, reviewed here Feb.. 17.  First, for the neuroscience. Some people seem to have weaker connections between their cerebral cortex and hypothalamus, and when these are young males, once in a while there seems to be greatly inclination to violence.

More relevant seemed to be the lack of “attachment” from parents, as shown in mammal studies.

The program then shifted to looking at a reformatory in Wisconsin, where extremely recalcitrant young male delinquents are housed.  Although the jail is draconian, there is real therapy offered. Young men have grown up without any understanding of what it means to live in a civilized society. One teen said that when he held someone up with a gun, he felt that he had power and control, something he could not get at school, where he could not compete with girls academically, or with boys from higher income or intact families (regardless of race).

This program aired at 9 PM on most PBS stations. The link is here
  
At 10 PM ESR, the “After Newtown” series continued with “The Path to Violence”, which examined attempts by public school systems to anticipate students who will present problems, 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Will and Sonny would make great gay dads on "Days", but Nick may "hack" Will into prison first


The “Will and Sonny” plotline on the NBC soap “Days of our Lives” may be headed toward the politically correct solution of Will and Sonny as gad dads for Gabi’s baby, but if so the course has gotten dangerous for Will (Chandler Massey).
  
After Chad disrupted and broke up the wedding between Gabi and Nick, Will announced that he is the father.   Will has shown emotional attachment to his own daughter, as he could see the sonogram of the baby in Gabi’s womb,  But he does not feel for Gabi herself, or any need to protect her, which seems inconsistent, even to me.  That belongs to Nick, who desperately wants the baby as his own because he didn’t get the first chance to make the baby with Gabi.
  
  
So Nick hacks Will’s cell phone to get some dirt for a custody battle, and finds out that Will’s father, Lucas, served time in prison and took the rap when Will, as a teen, shot EJ, even though Will thought he was protecting his parents when he did it.  Nick has be constantly referring to Will as “Gay Boy”, but now we get a clue as to Nick’s homophobia.  Nick was himself raped in jail.  He says “It’s not fair.  I paid for my crime.”  Now, he will “tell”, and Will might wind up in prison paying for his. It’s getting messy.

Note: On Tuesday, it appeared that Gabi was starting to miscarry.  Or maybe a premie.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PBS Frontline: "Raising Adam Lanza", tries to explain why Newtown happened


PBS Frontline aired a 35 minute film “Raising Adam Lanza” on Tuesday night, February 19, 2012.
The New York Times has an editorial saying that the writer will watch the documentary as a parent, not as a journalist , with link here.
   
But the main link from PBS is here.  The film was produced with the cooperation of the Hartford Courant.
    
The journalists interview a number of people, mostly in Newtown, who knew the Lanza’s, including a high school teacher who supervised Adam in a technology club. 

The documentary says that he had a sensory disorder where his brain could not integrate quickly what he was experiencing.  The Aspergers was probably secondary. 

The film suggests that Mrs. Lanza showed poor judgment in teaching him to use weapons.

It also says that she had been planning to place Adam in some sort of school; but contrary to popular reporting, there isn’t much evidence that Adam had objected. There was no mention of the “Doomsday Prepper” theory advocated in some of the tabloids. 


The comments on the PBS website above are well worth reading.

The film was followed by a short report on the debate on gun control in the Connecticut legislature. 

Picture: Mine, near Newtown, July 2011.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

CNN: "Inside the Hunt for Christopher Dorner"


Over the weekend, CNN aired its onehour documentary “Inside the Hunt for Christopher Dorner”, tracing the firing of the LAPD copy (for supposedly making a false report when whistleblowing), and the steps and incidents that led to Dorner’s death in a burning cabin in the San Bernadino Mountains, 90 miles east of downtown LA, in snow-covered country at about 6000 feet elevation, near Big Bear Lake.

There was a lot of discussion in the documentary of Dorner’s “manifesto”, which detailed his gripes of Dorner, and rambled off into pop culture and celebrities.  In a few passages, Dorner seemed to support gay rights., despite ranting against a “lesbian” cop implicated in his firing.

Here's another link on the "Manifesto", here. My own first "Do Ask Do Tell" book used to be called "The Manifesto".  So far, I have never learned of any reference to it in any materials left by someone who went "mad" (and I have checked for this).  But I have wondered if I would be contacted if that were ever to happen. 

CNN doesn’t have a specific link for the show yet, but a gun rights group has one here

 
  
The documentary did trace some of the history of racism in the LAPD and mentioned the Rodney King incident and trial. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Natgeo's "Science of Evil" is relevant given Newtown, Aurora


National Geographic’s “The Science of Evil” (2008), a 45-minute episode, is of interest now because of the recent tragedies involving misuse of guns.  It can be viewed on Netflix instant play.
  
The documentary starts with an experiment at a California university by a Dr. Zumbardo, who imprisons some graduate students, while other graduate students act  as guards.  In a few days, the “guards” start behaving in an atrocious fashion.  That part of the documentary reminds me a bit of Army Basic, particularly bayonet and individual tactical training (back in 1968).

A pastor in Wisconsin visits Jeff Dahmer in the state penitentiary in Columbia, WI, and become convinced that Dahmer has accepted truth and Jesus and baptizes him.  (I have reviews of two films about Dahmer on my Movies blog July 8 and Aug. 10, 2012.   Dahmer was himself killed by an inmate in 1994, so this is older footage.  
  
The film also explores human behavior in the Congo, where tribal warfare causes great cruelty. A woman is confronted with the idea of letting her baby die to save the rest of her family. She saves the baby.

  
The film also presents the research of Jonathan Cohen and Joshua Green in neuroscience, showing which areas of the brain are activated when dealing with moral decisions.  Cat scans and MRI’s are shown of test subjects wired with electrodes and subjected to various images.  Generally, people behave badly when others around them do. So that leaves us with trying to explain the behavior of persons like Adam Lanza and James Eagan Holmes.  It is particularly chilling that Holmes was studying neuroscience.  There is evidence he had begun his “preparations” three or four months in advance with weapons purchases but he probably had contemplated what he did for years.   We need to have a trial, because we need to know exactly what made him tick. 

Update: Feb. 18

Wolf Blitzer reported on CNN about a report that Adam Lanza may have been trying to emulate the perpetrator of a mass incident in Norway, in 2011, by Anders Breivik, a right wing extremist. Lanza was also bullied as a child attending Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the report Monday.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

AC360: "Kids off the Block", Diane Latiker, and the reality of ghetto "social combat" -- and upper class indifference -- and the gun debate


Friday night, CNN’s AC360 aired a retelling of the story of one of the CNN Heroes, Diane Latiker, who invited street kids in Chicago into her own home, and helped found a place next door (by buying a building next to her house) called “Kids off the Block”.
  
Chris Cuomo (from ABC news) interviewed her.  


In the report, one 13-year-old kid said that he doesn’t feel safe leaving home without a gun.  Kids at that age have guns?
  
A lot of people live in a world where “law and order” and a “free market economy” as we know them don’t function, and live by their wits and “social combat”.  That helps explain the mentality of gangs and bullying.  Yet, if middle class professionals remain indifferent and aloof, the problem gets worse, and can go completely out of control, to the point that it is a major “national security” (homeland) for everyone.
Anderson Cooper interviewed David Keene, the NRA President.  Keene discussed private gun sales among family members as if they should not be regulated, and said we should enforce the background check laws we have now, but increase them.
  
Keene also suggested that people need to learn self-defense with weapons to deal with adversity that is “inevitable” and unavoidable, both because of natural disasters, but also because of economic inequality.  He seemed to reinforce Wayne LaPierre’s “good guy, bad guy” paradigm as social reality.  But isn’t that a mindset that justifies bullying?
  
CBS news has a recent story on NRA positions here

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Mind over Money" on PBS Nova shows irrational exhuberance in markets as "empathy"; explanation of "bubbles" like 2008


PBS Nova has a useful report “Mind over Money”, directed by Malcolm Clarke (2010, 50 min) that tries to explain the physiological basis of human behavior that leads to financial bubbles.
    
The basic link for the show is here.

This particular episode is available right now on YouTube in its entirety (from Benjamin Balak).  Remember, many NOVA videos are available long term on only for-salve DVD’s.  I watched it on Netflix Instant Play.


The documentary set up some experiments with graduate students, including an auction of a $20 bill, where the highest losing bid still had to pay for the item.

The documentary also followed a young man in the NYC streets making "rational choices" in purchases but then lost that thread. 
   
Various other experiments were set up with people (including Wall Street traders) wired with electrodes.
Human behavior with respect to money doesn’t always seem “rational” or “calculating”.  The documentary gave an analogy between the tulip bubble in Amsterdam in the 17th Century with the Financial Crisis of 2008, where the “derivatives” (and credit default swaps) had become the “tulips”.  Wall Street tends to set up new “tulips” to cover risk temporarily and make the financial behavior appear to be “rational”.
  
The documentary distinguished between “empathy” and “sympathy”.  “Empathy” helps explain herd behavior (such as offering and taking out risky mortgages) that, to a rational person, seems to violate expectations of “personal responsibility”. Hence, the reign of subprime mortgages a few years ago. 

Jennifer Lerner (Harvard), Gary Becker and Richard Thaler all appear.   

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Zero Hour": ABC prods "The Invisible Empire of the Rosicrucians"


I had to set the Pilot of ABC's “Zero Hour” to record tonight, as I was at a dance event (see my :Drama Blog”), and when I played it back – yes, I can say I’m intrigued by the premise, even if it seems more transparent and hokey than from other series that I did like (such as “Flash Forward” and “The Event”). 
    
The show opens centuries ago with some Catholic ritual, and then shifts to 1938, somewhere in Germany, where some members of AMORC, the Rosicrucian Order, are trying to protect a secret buried somewhere in the machinations of old clocks and astrolabes. The Rosicrucians are described as "mystic Christians" (not quite accurate) who hold the secrets of the universe. 
   
If the Nazis find the secret, they will be able to achieve immortality (for the “chosen”) and displace God, according to something we learn toward the end of the episode. The secret seems to invoke a mysterious baby "of no womb". And perhaps there are freeze-dried adults, pickled, ready to come to life. 
    
That may sound like the height of personal or national conceit (and certainly an “excuse” for eugenics), but Clive Barker’s 1991 novel “Imajica” ends essentially with “man conquering God”. 
  
After the prologue, the show shifts to modern day Brooklyn (is it Park Slope, Williamsburg, or the gentrified Bed Stye?)  Anthony Edwards plays Hank Galliston, editor of Modern Skeptic, a magazine about paranormal activity.  His wife Laila (Jacind Barrett) runs a clock shop.  Suddenly, she is kidnapped, and pretty soon an FBI agent (Carmen Egojo) is asking Hank what the world’s most wanted mercenary could possibly want.  Hanks has a staff who can globetrot to help solve the mystery, including handsome Aaron (Scott Michael Foster). Hank also has the clock (which wasn't in the shop for the mercenary to find) with a diamond with an embedded treasure map. 
  
“Spy” movies or television with existential mysteries seem less credible if the characters seem too conveniently contrived, or make too many trips right away across the Pond. 
  
Some mysterious man in Germany (Michael Nyquist) warns the kids about the coming storm called ‘Zero Hour”.  Would this be the polar hurricane of “The Day After Tomorrow”? 
  
I actually belonged to the lowest levels of AMORC myself in the 1970s, as there was a chapter in the East Village in New York City. I’ve seen the headquarters and museum in San Jose, CA.  I have a review of the books of H. Spencer Lewis on my Books blog  April 7, 2007.  This series does seem to misplace the point of Rosicrucian teaching and practice. 

  
Does this show have enough hook to make me want to continue?  Probably.
   
I do think that it’s better not to start with a Prologue centuries ago..  In my own book, I put it in the “slow movement”, after a ritual initiation scene. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for AMORC cross picture from San Jose Museum.

Update: March 7, 2013

ABC has cancelled the show because of low ratings, after just three episodes!  It may air them in the summer.  But they have already been filmed.  At least air them somewhere.  I'd like to know "the answer".


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

AC360 interviews former LAPD officer fired over his book


Tonight, Anderson Cooper on AC360 interviewed author Brian S. Bentley, who wrote “One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer”, published by Cool Jack in 1997 (the same year as my first DADT book).  According to AC360,  Bentley was fired from the LAPD for writing the book (and I’ve talked a lot about “conflict of interest” in my own authorship experience on my blogs). 
  
The Amazon link for Bentley (out of stock) is here.
  
Bentley talked about the extreme culture of antagonism toward whistleblowing, and remnant racism in the LAPD.  He said he turned his anger or difficulty into writing (as did I), not violence. 
  
Earlier. AC360 reported an attempt by the son of the owner of the cabin that burned with Christopher Dorner in it, who was not allowed by police to reach the family property.  No mention has been made of whether they had insurance or how property insurance companies handle incidents like this.
  
AC360 also reported the unbelievable support of Dorner in social media, which seems to morph more into anti-government sentiment. Dorner seems to have gone to war.  
    

John Miller spoke twice on AC360. The program also interviewed a couple who was carjacked by Dorner but not harmed. 
      
Forbes discusses a “decoded version” of Dorner’s manifesto in an article here
  
Television station KTLA has an original of the “manifesto” here.
  
AC360 will air a special documentary Feb. 28, “The Bully Effect”.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

ABC covers Obama "State of Play" and Rubio, and then takes us to "Modern Family" on a baseball diamond


ABC News provided a reverse order blog on President Obama’s State of the Union Address, with lots of comments.  Here’s their (website url) reference

I didn’t hear any real surprises.  The president reiterated the need to honor the Full Faith and Credit of the United States. 

He gave a rather optimistic view of alternate energy, but warned that the evidence on climate change was becoming overwhelming, as contributing toward the wildfires, the derecho and “Hurricane” Sandy.
He mentioned is commitment to equal benefits for gay partners for members of the military (he used the words “gay or straight”), despite some legal obstacles as with DOMA.

But he did say our most precious resource was our “children”, and then gave a long litany on the victims of gun violence.  The parents of a teenage girl shot accidentally in gang warfare one mile from the president’s home in Chicago after the inauguration (when the girl had been to the inauguration) were in the audience.

Obama, emphasizing the middle class, recommended a $9 minimum wage. 


Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), only 41,  gave the GOP response, about 20 minutes.  Rubio argued that too much government was bad for the middle class, and particularly would make Social Security and Medicare unsustainable.  Rubio said that he lives in a middle class neighborhood.   Rubio blamed the collapse of the housing market, precipitating the 2008 financial crisis, on two much government, but that doesn’t add up. Rubio also said that families were not always installing moral values in their kids. He also said that Obamacare, when imposed on employers, would lead to less hiring and more layoffs (he used the "L" word at least once.)

Rubio reached for a water bottle during the speech, and the camera followed him.  Sort of like being at the dentist.
  
ABC did not show the Tea Party response from Rand Paul, but put on a 20 minute (uninterrupted) episode of “Modern Family”, occurring mainly on a little league baseball field.  No, Cam can’t play baseball. 

Jimmy Kimmel somehow linked all the speech content tonight to “the plot of Inception”.  Are Obama and Rubio engaging in lucid dreaming? 

By the way, do "those Republicans" remember that in ABC's "Revenge", Nolan Ross's boyfriend (whom he fires from his company almost every week) is named "Marco"?  (He even looks like the Florida Senator.) A coincidence?  

The first picture above:: I had taken it in the fall of 2008.  Look how far things have come in four years!

Monday, February 11, 2013

ABC's "Revenge for Real": "The Miami Millionaire" previews the Michael Bay film "Pain & Gain"


ABC sometimes follows its episodes of “Revenge” with “Revenge for Real”, but only on air (without web playback).  Sunday night it aired an episode called “The Miami Millionaire”. I'm glad I don't live there!
   
This concerns the story of Marc Schiller, a Miami businessman who was targeted by organized crime in the 1990s.  He was kidnapped, tortured and forced to sign away all his wealth.  The was then almost run over and left for dead, but, unbeknownst to his captors, survived.  When the gang tried it on someone else (by inviting its way into a family’s life and then kidnapping it), Schiller assisted with the prosecution, after the police  had at first not believed Schiller’s own story.  Schiller, however, would be prosecuted for Medicare fraud and serve 46 months.

The kidnapping schemes – and the forced signing over of wealth during rendition -- seem particularly brazen to the public, although they probably happen in the world of organized crime. 

Schiller’s story is told in a book “Pain and Gain: The Untold True Story”, from Star of Hope Publishing, and will be a feature film titled “Pain & Gain” this spring starring Mark Wahlberg, directed by Michael Bay for Universal and Paramount.  Some names in the movie are changed.  


ABC has surprisingly little coverage of its “Revenge for Real” series online, compared to other shows.  There is a blog link here.

The series has sometimes been shown as 20-20 episodes. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Justin Bieber hosts SNL; he definitely can act comedy


Justin Bieber hosted SNL Saturday night, Feb. 9, and probably helped keep the club population down on an otherwise festive pre-Mardi Gras weekend.

He was pretty effective as an actor in some of the skits, which rather resemble “short films”.  In one skit in the last half hour, he visits a girl friend in a home, and the girl’s brother “puts the make” on him, making comments about his larval and frankly immature  looks. 

His acting was much more effective than was that, say, of Michael Phelps a couple years ago. 

Bieber's opening was not that effective, but he did hug Whoopi Goldberg.

I’ve never been as inspired by his singing say as I am by, say, Josh Groban.

I think Bieber could lose the tattoos.  Maybe he thinks he needs them. 

The episode offered with a parody of the power outage at the Super Bowl .

I tried to record the show, since I didn’t get back until the middle.  Somehow, NBC fed the Comcast DVR interface the wrong episode (with Adam Levine, right after the inauguration).  I had to make do with NBC’s embedded playback.


The best link for the episode seems to be this.

Bieber’s opening remarks mentioned Black History Month before Valentine’s Day.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

NBC Washington's "Helping Hands" on Saturday mornings


NBC Washington (or NBC4) airs a half-hour segment on Saturday mornings (10 AM EST) called “Helping Hands”, with many stories of people “grabbing a hammer”.  The show (or a similar show) apparently airs in many local markets aimed at each geographical area.

In one episode on Feb. 9, someone helped a girl get displayed in an art show in Silver Spring, MD called “Pyramid”.  Part of the broadcast displayed a little of the art show. There was short film on the Academy Awards Documentary nominees list, “Inocente”, about a daughter of an undocumented worker in Southern California with a similar situation (movie reviews, Feb. 2, 2013). 

In another case, an electrician spent an entire day rewiring a single mother’s home.
And a company in Silver Spring called “Creative Concrete” built a patio for another mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome.


The show recounts one client’s daughter passing away.

But a portion of the series (apparently in other cities) was aired on the local evening news on Feb 8 on NBCWashington, a part about a finance professional in New York who left his job (in Manhattan) for a few months to personally help out victims of Hurricane Sandy.


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


Check the tone of the comment on the Aug. 29, 2007 posting on this blog.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Netflix, Kevin Spacey and David Fincher: "House of Cards": That's what Washington is



I watched episode 1 of Netflix’s own “House of Cards” political drama series by Beau Willimon, with David Fincher and Kevin Spacey among the executive producers.

Kevin Spacey leads as Francis Underwood (why not “Frankie”?), US Congressman from South Carolina and Democratic whip.   His wife Claire (Robin Wright) runs a non-profit connected to Frankie’s political shenanigans.  Peter Russo (Corey Stoll) is another Democrat from Pennsylvania, who acts as an ally, and Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) is getting inaugurated as a Democratic president.

Frankie learns that he won’t get the appointment to a cabinet appointment that he had coveted, and pretty soon his loyalty is fractured.  His wife decides that she needs to fire half the staff of her non-profit for political reasons – the scene with the office manager is quite telling as to the “values” of non-profit solidarity.  A reporter (Kate Mara), a reporter for the “Washington Insider” wants to deal illegally for scoops.  (This isn’t an allusion to the right wing “The Washington Times” is it?)  Peter gets stopped by a DC cop for DWI, and Peter acts like this is a game of “Shear Madness”.

I have a trouble with the idea of being committed to a long political series like this (supposedly priced at $100 million), although I used to watch “The West Wing” a lot.  Fincher says that he prefers the mini-series format for material like this because it gives him time to build his material gradually.  But are there any real stakes here?

I also have a problem with the “reality” of any series with a fictitious president.  The earliest time this series could take place is 2016.

Netflix instant play subscribers can watch the episodes (all 13 were made available on February 1) at any time.

Note: My Netflix records say that I watched Episode 2, but I think it was the Pilot. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

ABC View covers international adoption; Anderson covers gay mountain climber; "Modern Family" likes babysitting


On Wednesday, February 7, 2013, ABC’s “The View” made a case for international adoption by presenting the story of the family of Scott and Lauren Sterling, who had adopted five children from Peru a few years ago, as a “proof of faith” despite average resources, after seeing a plea online from the kids for a “mom and dad”.  The story (on the UK mail) is here.  The virtue of international adoption (which could become critical in arguing for gay adoption) has been confronted by bans from Russia and Guatemala.  

Anderson Cooper presented Cason Crane, 20, the first openly gay man to climb “The Seven Summits”, to make a donation to the Trevor Project, story here.

Crane described his planned climb of Mt. Everest. The video below is for the squeamish. 

Anderson also presented a report on Jenna Hill’s book on the Church of Scientology, which adds on to material presented on NBC’s Rock Center  (January 19, 2013). 
  
On ABC’s “Modern Family” (Season 4, Episode 14), “A Sight of the Opera”, Cam directs a school production of Andrew Lloyd Weber's opera “Phantom of the Opera”_  and is a good teacher with less mature children, and Dylan shows he has a way with babies.  It struck me that Reid Ewing acted the part with a bit of woodenness, but I wonder if the stereotyped “affect” was intentional from the "mockumentary" directing. 

By the way. ABC's episode viewer was having trouble streaming the picture (on all computers), which would stop or garble, even as the sound continues to play.  (Oh, yes, Reid is too tempting to look at, compared to Cam and Mitch -- so much for lookism.)  

Let me add, I recommend that the visitor peruse some of Reid Ewing's YouTube videos, particularly those related to his original "charisma" song for Modern Family, "In the Moonlight (Do Me)", which I think he owns;  also "Traffic Jam"  (on the notorious 405, where my hotel was last time I was in LA?) and "Imagine Me Naked" (still PG-13), as well as funny videos about auditioning, and "free things" in the public library (using a homonym based on his first name). He could definitely host SNL.  His short film "Inner Child" is reviewed on the Movies Blog Oct. 8, 2012).

First picture: Metro; Second: winter homelessness on Pennsylvania Ave, less than one mile from the Capitol, Washington DC.  

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

"Silicon Valley", a new film by PBS American Experience, goes back to the 1950s

 



Tuesday, February 6, 2013 PBS “American Experience” aired a 90 minute film “Silicon Valley”, tracing the history of the microchip industry back to the late 1950s, in the Bay Area between San Francisco and San Jose. 
  
The film starts with the story of William Shockley, who coinvented the transistor and started a company (Beckman) in Santa Clara, the first business that would lead to what we call “Silicon Valley”.  But he ruled a dictatorship (and believed in some ideas like eugenics), so some key employees, most of all Robert Noyce, left and formed their own company, to become Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957.  Later Noyce would found Intel.
  
The film discusses the tedium and manual labor (by women) of making early semiconductors, and how the slightest problem (hands not washed after urination) could contaminate them.  By the early 60s, the companies had invented and patented automated processes to make them more reliably, especially the Planar Process.  The film would also cover the long term rivalry with Texas Instruments. 


The ability of the industry to meet the needs of the space program and put man on the Moon in 1969 is still astounding.
  

Watch Silicon Valley Preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.
  
The film makes an interesting point about how Silicon Valley workplace culture evolved:  it would be less authoritarian, and loyalty to one employer was not expected as it had been in the past.
   
The film is directed by Randall MacLowry. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

ABC World News espouses the virtues of renting spare rooms


ABC World News Tonight  on Monday did a report on how families help make their mortgages by renting out spare rooms.  There are websites and companies that vet renters and even provide insurance. 

The report presented a family in Montclair, NJ (where I worked for Univac  in 1973), able to make about $1000 a month by renting a room in an attic, after fixing it up.

I’m a little surprised to find that there are that many people who would rent just a room, but I did so in Indianapolis in 1970 (in two different homes) while on my first job with RCA (no longer there). 
In 1980, in Dallas, Texas, the gay community was actually looking to house Cuban refugees in “spare rooms” although that rather fizzled out.  But I actually had a previously homeless boarder in Dallas for about four months in the fall of 1980 in a condo in North Dallas. 


(Note: to play ABCNews embeds in Internet Explorer, some browser settings may have to be set to allow ABC's scripts; no issue in Firefox, Chrome or Safari.) 
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Monday, February 04, 2013

PBS one-hour report "After Newtown" (from Dec. 2012)


On Dec. 21, 2012, PBS aired a one hour special “After Newtown”, as a combination of efforts from Frontline, Nova, Newshour, and other series, hosted by Gwen Ifill.

Gwen started the show by interviewing Todd Purdum (Vanity Fair), Peter Baker (New York Times), and Alexis Simendinger (Real Clear Politics).

Then the program went into the neuroscience, with Josh Buckholtz and Steven Pinker from Harvard. The case of Whitman, and the Austin Texas shooting in 1965, was discussed: Whitman had asked that his brain be autopsied, and a small tumor was found near the amygdala.  The professors suggested that in some people the wiring between the cerebral cortex and amygdala is weak. The show broadcast an interview with Kip Kinkel, serving life in prison without parole after shootings in Oregon in 1998. Kinkel talked about hearing voices and sounded morose. This was very hard to listen to. 
  

Watch After Newtown on PBS. See more from After Newtown.
  
Later the program interviewed Larry Pratt from the NRA, and Pratt made the usual case for the absolute right to self-defense, and the libertarian position that the government should not regulate personal behavior with guns. 
  
This program was broadcast right after Wayne LaPierre had made his “good guy bad guy” remarks at an NRA Press Conference.
  
Jeff Greenfield also spoke about the way the press is getting facts wrong right after incidents, because of the pressure from social media. For example, the press initially reported Ryan, rather than his younger brother Adam, as the shooter, and said that Mrs. Lanza had taught at the school, which she hadn’t.
  
I think it’s important to get into the motives of the perpetrators.  It seems as though Mrs. Lanza had tried to teach Adam to use guns to make him a “man” and then had indoctrinated him with “Doomsday Prepper” ideology, and perhaps the end of the world on Dec. 21.  That could have set someone unstable off, as believing there was “nothing to lose” in showing contempt.  NBC has never disclosed the details about what the Va. Tech shooter sent to the company. The media is kept from knowing much about James Holmes, but it seems particularly chilling that he had been studying neuroscience, and there seems to be some evidence that he had started purchasing weapons several months before the July 2012 incident.  If there is a trial, all of this will come out; if there is a plea bargain, then it might not.  I think the public needs to know the full story.
PBS will air a program “What Next After Newtown?”.   

It's rather shocking how many parents don't lock up their (legally owned) guns when kids can get them.  On the other hand, when I was a boy, my father had a 22 rifle, usually in the basement (unloaded, but there was ammo somewhere), and I never gave it any thought.  I don't know what became of it.

Update: Feb 19:

A subsequent Frontline episode demonstrated the plastic rifle, which can be manufactured in an unregulated fashion with 3-D printers, and will be available soon.  This would confound regulatory laws.

There was also discussion of the ease with which criminals get guns in Chicago, despite the strictest gun control laws in the country.  75% of the victims of gun violence in Chicago are black. When a youth has been shot once, the expected time until being shot again (usually in gang activity) is nine months.
   

Super Bowl XLVII becomes a bizarre misadventure (and maybe a warning from the Newt)


Well, the Super Bowl XLVII (47) was a good as any “movie” last night.

First, for the stage show at halftime:  Beyonce and her crew were spectacular (visually more than aurally), and I was surprised that officials allowed fans onto the field to take cell phone photos up so close.
    
‘Beyonce did her own live singing, to be sure, with numbers like “Crazy in Love”, “Halo”, Single Ladies – Put a Ring on It” and “Bootylicious”.  It was enough to remind me of my spate of heterosexual dating in 1972 (when the Redskins had Bill Kilmer – the Skins lost to Miami 14-7 in that year’s Bowl). 

But the game itself was bizarre.  Baltimore owned the first half, leading 21-6, and started the second half with a kickoff return of a record typing 108 yards. 
  
Then the lights went out.  The Super Dome looked eerie.  Then half the lights came back on.  Larry King tweeted that eh Superdome didn’t pay its light bill.  I tweeted that maybe there had been an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack and that Newt Gingrich would be pleased.  The stadium had to clear a power surge and repower all the lights.  The game was delayed 34 minutes. Afterward, we all know that the momentum moved to the 49ers  (oops – I almost typed “Orioles” – a Freudian slip from having attended Camden Yards before the Nationals returned – Baltimore owns “The Birds” and Maryland will be proud). 
    
The end of the game, with Baltimore taking a safety to burn time, was certainly interesting. So was the fact that the 40er’s final fourth down play didn’t draw a penalty.
  
I see no reason to pay thousands for a Super Bowl ticket, when you can see everything in high definition. And the sports bars were just too packed. 
  

I voted for Ram’s Super Bowl commercial “Farmer”, which was a bit like a short film, and an ode to conventional family life and good karma – doing the manual work and gender-specific child rearing that is not cool any more.  This was definitely a commercial that The Washington Times would like. 
The Superdome has come a long way since Oprah Winfrey said she almost vomited when reporting on it right after Hurricane Katrina. 
   
One other Super Bowl to remember – 2004 in Houston, when Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson had their “wardrobe malfunction” at halftime.  That was a little before I would start my stint of substitute teaching

Picture: New Orleans canal, Feb. 2006, personal trip. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

AC360 on CNN hosts town hall on gun violence and reform


On Thursday night, Jan. 31, Anderson Cooper hosted an hour long “town hall” on what to do about gun violence, with basic link here.

Featured speakers included Colin Goaddard, who was one of the victims shot at Virginia Tech in April 2007 and who recovered from severe wounds.  Goddard had shown by demonstration that it was easy to buy dangerous weapons at gun shows in Virginia with no background check.

Also appearing was Joe Zamudo, from the Tucson incident in January 2011, which resulted in the severe head wounding of Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords.  Recently Giffords testified in Congress, and her speech is still forced and labored.

Sarah McKinley, who had at 18 shot an intruder in Oklahoma while defending her baby, appeared and said that background checks were appropriate. 
    
Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal reporter, said that until a Supreme Court ruling in 2008 (over a District of Columbia law) it was not clear that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to own a gun, outside of participation in an organized militia.  He said that the government can exercise reasonable judgment in banning the most obviously dangerous and “useless” (from an “ordinary” civilian perspective) weapons. 
  
The basic information about the case District of Columbia v. Heller  is (website url) here on Wikipedia.  

A Second Amendment lobby group in Virginia posted the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in 2008 on YouTube here.
  

During the show, there was some discussion of the idea that self-defense (and the ability to defend others) is a moral responsibility, an idea that I find very troubling and inviting anarchy. A sheriff from Wisconsin had suggested (on Piers Morgan) that ordinary citizens should not count on quick 911 response because of police cutbacks.  WBSM has a video of sheriff David A. Clarke’s remarks here.
 
Is a cell phone a more essential instrument of home safety than a weapon?  I think so. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

ABC 20-20 covers paparazzi chasing kids of celebrities: implications for "average" people?


On Friday night, ABC 20-20 presented a report on the way paparazzi “stalk” and take pictures of celebrities’ children in public places.

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The report indicated that the practice is legal in the United States “under the First Amendment” but not in most European countries.

Several stars, including Julia Roberts and Ben Affleck, were shown as rebuffing photographers in public places, especially near schools.  And at least one star’s little boy kept screaming, “Stop taking pictures”.
  
It would seem that schools would be in a position to prohibit photography on or very near their premises.
   
“Unauthorized” photography of ordinary people, while legal in the US, has become more controversial in the past two years or so because of reports that people have been fired from jobs because of pictures others have taken of them (as in bars) and posted on the Internet.  It sounds like a major political or legal controversy over this point is on the horizon.  I’ve covered it on my main blog.  How much does it matter whether the subject is a private or public person?

In common life, there are many motives for taking pictures; but for paparazzi, it's just money -- how much do they get per shot?

Friday, February 01, 2013

"Do No Harm" on NBC: what would it really be like to have two egos?


I don’t think that the new NBC series “Do No Harm” can inspire much viewer return loyalty.

Steven Pasquale plays a handsome, virile young neurosurgeon (like Ben Casey from the early 1960s), whose “schizophrenia” causes him to switch back to his other ego at 8:25 PM every evening, for exactly twelve hours.  He has to race back to his pad in center city Philadelphia (the show uses the time piece on Independence Hall) in time so that no one knows – or sees.  That would also make it hard for him to show up in time to scrub for surgery.  (A heart surgeon told me he gets up at 4 AM Monday-Friday and is scrubbed by 6 AM, has started his first coronary bypass for the day by 7 AM.  It’s a business.)

The scrubbing does no harm to his bod or attractiveness, but he seems to have diabetes.  They won’t let him into the operating room without a glucose test.  We don’t get to go below.

His behavior during the night is pretty violent, and there is scene that reminds one of “Caligula”.  Or maybe of “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999). 

I wondered, what would it mean to really experience this?  Are there two separate people and two distinct threads of free will?  (Are there two Facebook profiles, one of them against policy?)  Or does one person maintain continuity, and simply connect to the past of a different life temporarily?  Is it life a dream, where you know something happened but can’t quite remember it, and then suddenly recall it later when reminded by an object?  Or could one soul "capture" another's (as in a video game)?
   
I do recall seeing the 1931 film, “Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde”, directed by Rueben Mamoulian, with Frederick March, on a late Saturday show called “Chiller” than ran in the early 1960s.  Based on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (remember English Literature in high school?), it was less graphic than a lot of horror films at the time.
  
The site for the show is here.