Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Here come the Nationals": Washington DC ABC affiliate previews the baseball season in prime time; baseball players should learn chess


On Friday night, March 30, local ABC affiliate in Washington DC preempted ABC regular programming and aired “Here Come the Nationals” with host Tim Brant. 
  
The show covered the upcoming baseball season, which opens Monday, April 1, when the Nationals host the Florida Marlins with Stephen Strasburg pitching. 

The show included portraits and brief interviews of Stephen Strasburg (who was shut down at the end of the year by an innings limit), Gio Gonzales (who had to fight off association with a doping clinic in Florida),  Ryan Zimmerman, and Adal LaRoche, who had a protracted signing battle this winter, and, of course, Bryce Harper, now still just 20.

ESPN has an interview with Manager Davie Johnson.


There's another interview with Bryce Harper close by. 

We’ll miss Michael Morse, who was traded to Seattle for less than what should have been expcted.  The Nationals did have a mediocre record in the Grapefruit League, 14-18.
   
Do any baseball players play chess?  It’s probably a good thing mentally if they do?  I lost a game at the Arlington Chess Club Friday night where I had picked off an “exchange” in the opening and succumbed to a Kings side attack by Black, because all of my pieces were on the left side of the board winning material.

In the first position I played   “16 Nxd4” instead of “exd4” (isolating the d pawn) because otherwise Black could play “..b5” and trap the white Bishop. The opening had been a Grunfeld, a line considered sharp but not Black's first choice.  My opponent wanted fun.  Offer material, and let a dogmatic, material-greedy and positional player like me live on the precipice.  Did I pay for greed?

In the second position I must play 19 “Be4” immediately rather than take the time"obvious"  for “19 Rac1” so that the fianchettoed Bishop helps defend the king side against the coming sacrifice on e3.  (Black still has about three pawns and a lot of play for a rook in the coming attack, but it won’t be quite enough this time.) Sometimes you have to be accurate.  “Normal” moves are not enough! But complicated, speculative attacks can be very difficult to defend over the board.  

After Black won the game. I felt like Drew Storen after that 9-7 loss to the Cardinals at home in the playoffs last year. 

I think that relief pitchers should definitely know how to play chess.  I wonder if anyone on the Nats plays.  Ryan Zimmerman seems a bit more cerebral than some of the other players.  

Oops:  the last picture is at Citi Field, from a trip to NYC last year.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

ABC 20-20: "The Ultimate Betrayal": a psychopath trashes a woman he meets (on a plane) on the Internet


ABC 20-20, on Friday, March 29, ran three stories of personal stalking and gullibility on “The Ultimate Betrayal”.
  
The most interesting was the second one.  A young woman living in Arlington VA  met a man Bruce Stimon, on a plane from Boston to Washington.  She give minimal contact information. The end result, according to 20-20, was the trashing of her reputation with fake profiles and links to porn sites, fake sex tapes, and even involvement of her “friends” on her social media lists.  She was fired from her job, as her employer held her responsible for her own social media reputation (employers often do this).   He had become jealous when she rebuffed him; she got restraining orders on him.  When he drove to Arlington from New Hampshire, police were waiting and he wound up with a seven year sentence. 

The ABC story by Jim Dubrueil is here
  
One revelation was that Stimon was married and had a child, and his wife was shocked at the development. When she filed for divorce, he tried to trash her social media presence, too. 

This shows the danger of social media, when others abuse it.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, people are much more touchy about photography in discos than they were even two years ago because of media reports of abuse.

I've met people on planes before, given them my website and blog addresses, and never had a bad experience.  I met a law associate one time and had a discussion about gay marriage.   
     
This story sounds like the act of a (heterosexual) psychopath who cannot stand rejection. The 20-20 broadcast started with the story of an even more violent sequence in Colorado, of a psychopathic husband who would do anything, including hire killers, to get his way.
  
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The last story involved a young woman who moved to LA with little money, and inadvertently got involved with drug dealers to make ends meet.  She wound up spending thirty days in jail and a year of house arrest, but a felony conviction, as part of a plea deal for a “snitch”.   Her story is becoming a book and a movie from Paramount.  (It started as a blog.)  ABC used the tag line, “when a mug shot becomes a head shot”.  Don’t do it!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Anderson Cooper swims with crocodiles in an African river, "paying his dues" again


Anderson Cooper paid his dues as a young man, as a reporter working in Vietnam.  He had even interned with the CIA (which I didn’t know was possible until I saw it on Wikipedia, although this fact comports with my own novel).
  
He also paid his dues again recently in Botswana, helping a zoologist lasso a crocodile, and then diving underwater to film them.   This seems dangerous.  Because of a weather cycle, the crocodiles were not particularly hungry, but he probably could not have escaped had they attack.  In the boat, he also helped tag them.   Cooper, 45, is a good swimmer and has previously swam with sharks to film them, and also swam on Live with Kelly a couple years ago.
  
The dive was shown on AC360 last night but had appeared on 60 Minutes.  It did not appear to be embeddable, but here is the url link
  
There was an embeddable video put up by CNN.

  
Curiously, videos owned by CBS were not embeddable.  I have noticed this consistently with CBS.
AC360 has covered the gay marriage debate in the Supreme Court this week like all other media (Jeffrey Toobin has done most of the commentary for CNN). Anderson himself has kept rather cool about it.  This must be an interesting time for him, since he “came out” in mid 2012.   Curiously, he has told Oprah that he is mildly dyslexic.  That’s what makes your brain scramble words as you type!  I do it all the time. 

Note:  See "BillBoushka" blog March 28 for story on litigation involving "spoilers" for ABC's "The Bachelor".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

PBS Travis Smiley Reports on "Education Under Arrest"


Travis Smiley Reports, American Graduate, “Education Under Arrest”., aired on WETA Tuesday night at 8 PM, link here
  
The one hour documentary examines the downstream consequences of school systems’ “zero tolerance” policies, which result in juveniles being locked up (or placed in “lockdown”) and learning the ways of prison life and culture even at ages under 12.  “Zero Tolerance” was motivated particularly by Columbine.


“Zero tolerance” effectively condemns kids to a life of crime by kicking them out of the system, the documentary maintains. 
  
The early part of the documentary did show kids in lockup, and showed how they learn the values of the criminal underworld in jail, even in the juveniles system.
  
Alternative schools (middle and high) offer an alternative to lockup in some communities.  One judge explained how this is one resource he can use because he is appointed, and not elected.   
  
There was particular attention to an alternative high school near Spokane, WA, and to explaining how an alternative high school system works.  A teacher said that most teachers and employees find it challenging to be drawn into the world of personal problems of the kids, including lack of health insurance, homelessness, pregnancy, drug use.  She challenged the idea, “These aren’t my kids and aren’t my problem”.
  
There was a case presented of a teenage girl disciplined when she was mistakenly identified for being at the scene of a fight when she wasn’t.  She said she is told she has to accept the authority of adults even when it isn’t always fair.  Her older sister cried with her.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PBS: An academic year at DC Met, an alternative high school


Tonight, WETA and PBS presented Part II of “180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School”, about life at an alternative highs school, Metropolitan High School in Washington DC (“DC Met”), link here.  

Each part of the film runs two hours.  It appears to be indirectly part of Frontline.
  
The full link is here  and the “reality documentary” was produced by Black Public Media.


The film stresses the difficulties teachers have in bringing students up to even about the 30% percentile in grade level achievement in math.  The introduction of free response questions troubles them, particularly in questions where students have to respond to an analysis piece.   (I remember seeing SOL free responses when I was a sub;  one kid actually wrote about why we were in Iraq.)

A physics teacher discusses the difficulty of teaching relative motion to students who don’t get Algebra I, let alone calculus.  Reading and math levels when kids reach the high school seems to be about sixth grade.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

CNN airs biographies of Justin Timberlake, and then Beyonce


On March 24, 2013, at 8 PM EDT, CNN aired a couple of celebrity documentaries, “The Justin Timberlake Experience”, (perhaps "Triumph") and “The Beyonce Experience”.
  
CNN reviewed Justin’s history with Disney as a child (“Mousketeer”) in Tennessee, and gave the history of the founding of Nsync, first in Florida.  I can remember on January 31, 2001 when everyone celebrated on the Internet the fact that Justin Timberlake “was no longer a teenager”.   (More recently, they said that about Taylor Lautner.)  He was quite compelling at that age, appearing on Larry King Live and other shows, and was the most conspicuous member of Nsync (maybe Lance Bass shared the honor at times).  His appearance became more erratic after the group broke up, as he moved into acting and played roles of less wholesome (sometimes tattooed) characters in movies like “Alpha Dog” and “Southland Tales” (the latter of which was about terrorism).
  
On the other hand, Timberlake made Sean Parker, in "The Social Network", into a powerful character and influential on the young Mark Zuckerberg in the growth of Facebook.   

Timberlake was actually home-schooled during the last part of his youth so he could advance his singing.   This seems to have worked very well with a number of celebrities (even in classical music).  At the same time, the economy threatens arts and music programs in public schools, something celebrities can address with philanthropy.   
  
I do recall an appearance on NBC’s “Ellen” show where Justin played piano solo (around 2010), and I think played some Gershwin.  He actually has considerable piano skills as well as voice. 

Timberlake has also gotten interested in producing films, probably direction soon, and some sports (golf).  (Could he direct my film?)  
  
The best CNN link for the report is here

CNN brushed off the “wardrobe malfunction” incident at the Super Bowl in 2004; I remember that was big headlines on AOL even during the game.


“Bye Bye Bye” was a popular “puppet act” then for the boy band.  Another song, involving toy soldiers in a retail store (a “Toy Story”) , seemed to be trying to make fun of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. 

I attended an ‘Nsync “Popodyssey” concert at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on a Sunday night in late June 2001 (curiously, gay pride Sunday in Minneapolis).  The show was very athletic, with some singing from trampolines and ropes.  Curiously, security was tight (with weapons checks) entering the stadium for that show even though this preceded 9/11. 

As I noted yesterday, a music background opens a lot of other doors.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

SNL: Adam Levine rerun: you don't need to see him shirtless


I think that SNL (Saturday Night Live) last night was a rerun, and maybe it was a good thing I missed it the first time, after the inauguration.  Adam Levine hosted it.  He was immediately challenged to go shirtless.  Jerry Seinfeld, looking older himself, tried to “protect” him.  But all of the sudden, we saw Levine, covered with tattoos (that’s how he looks on Wikipedia), his bod defaced and desecrated as far as I’m concerned, ruined. His chest hair, whatever had survived, was cropped to a fuzz. 
  
I could say that the episode proves the existence of heterosexuality.  Heterosexual men wouldn’t notice or care, right?  Not necessarily.
  
The first skit was about being gay anyway.   But later the show got into some legitimate stuff, like the problem of Catfishing and being fired over social media – as Dr. Phil used to say, “Internet mistakes”.
I see that Justin Timberlake did March 9, which I haven’t watched yet. (More on Timberlake is coming from CNN tonight.)  The opening on the replay online is tame enough (the introductory pharmaceutical commercial is way too long.  Steve Martin gets in the picture quickly, with his intimations of ‘Nsync.   Justin has been defaced before, too. 
  
As far as other possible hosts – how about Nev Schulman, with his whole career of reporting on catfishing and Okie Noodling.  He is laid back, and actually conservatively masculine in his appearance and demeanor, if gentled.  (Remember that line from “Catfish” – “O My God …”)  
  
I think that Reid Ewing (Dylan on “Modern Family”) would make an interesting host.  His videos are genuinely funny. I don’t know what the legal ramifications with ABC and Disney would be for using materials that had appeared on the mockumentary MF.   But I can imagine a lot of skits on “Do Me…” and “Imagine Me Naked”, as well as Carmageddon on the 405 (where I stayed the last time I was in LA), “Reid-ing” at the public library, and the short film “Inner Child” (that takes two). 

Could a classical musician host SNL?  How about the upcoming (Brooklyn) pianist-composer Timo Andres? Would Mozart recompositions go over well?  (Actually, a lot of today's stars began with piano lessons, including Justin Timberlake, who has proved he is still quite capable on the piano, at least to Ellen. Reid also started out with piano, apparently. There's something about music lessons as a child that increases the chance of public success later in life in a positive way.)
  
I’m told that the way you get tickets to SNL is to show up early Saturday Morning at Rock Center; it’s first come first serve.  At least that’s what a hotel told me the last time I was in NYC.   (If someone actually knows, please comment).   I’ll have to watch for who the upcoming hosts will be. 
   

Have they ever broadcast SNL from LA instead? Burbank would make sense.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

ABC 20-20 looks at legal subtleties of Steubernville case


On Friday, March 22, 2013, ABC 20-20 aired a report “Steubenville: After the Party Is Over”. 
  
The basic incident occurred in August, 2012, and is summarized on Wikipedia here. Ironically, I visited the city on November 11, 2012 (my motel was in Weirton, W Va).  I had not paid any attention to the case at that point and was in the area to look at the fracking issue.

The 20-20 report stressed the digital detective work, since so much of the incident wound up on social media.  It’s pretty easy to determine who transmitted what from cell phone numbers and possibly IP addresses. 

The report also stressed the legal ambiguities of the case.  “Jane Doe”, 16, as indeed touched or manipulated inappropriately while she was intoxicated, and apparently that met the Ohio definition of rape.  But what is more critical is whether transmission of the incident in social media was a crime, or, even more pertinently, whether other kids or parents had a legal duty to report the incident under Ohio law.  My COPA blog entry on Jan. 5, 2013 takes up some of those questions.

It still is rather shocking that teenagers thought that it was funny to post this on social media, and that idea of “power” and demanding submission or humiliation seems so important to the teen brain. 

The age of consent in Ohio is 16 (according to Wikipedia), so statutory rape charges wouldn’t occur as they would in other states like California or Virginia, where it is 18. However, other states may have other different ways of interpreting the events here. 

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Friday, March 22, 2013

"Katie" examines the possibility of preventing aging, and a new story of the afterlife


Today, Friday March 22, 2013, Katie Couric led a particularly interesting show, which kept me off the phone checking on some financial stuff.  It will have to wait until Monday.
  
The first part of the show concerned a girl now 20 who had stopped growing at age 5.  But it appears that he cells have stopped “aging”.  She seems to be the only person in the world with this condition.  The young woman is Brooke Greenberg,, from suburban Baltimore, MD.  The Huffington Post has a story on her situation here. Her "condition" is called 'Syndrome X". 

There would be a difference between stopping growing and actually stopping aging, or aging in reverse, as in the movie “Benjamin Button”.  There is a jellyfish that actually does that.  Presumably, aging occurs partly because of entropy in physics, and that is why reproductive life counteracts entropy.

We don’t know if Brooke is “immortal”, but this would be impossible without some sort of energy source to prevent entropy.  Maybe a  bizarre virus (like a retrovirus) could impart that genetic or epigenetic change. 
  

A second guest is a young woman who cannot feel pain, but does feel emotion and empathy.

The third guest was a neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, who was in a coma for days after sudden acute meningitis as an adult.  He told his biographical story, about his adoption and estrangement from biological parents.  His book is “Proof of Heaven” which I will review soon.  He did describe Heaven as a physical place with a geography.  I have imagined the afterlife as a situation where you don’t experience anything but are aware of everyone else’s motives just as they are aware of yours.  It’s hard to imagine Heaven as another planet with high rise condos.  
  
I discuss some of this on my movie review of “Upside Down” on March 21, on my movies reviews. 
  
Anderson’s daytime show today covered identity theft and fraudulent IRS returns, as “lucrative” for criminals and difficult for the IRS to stop.  The most likely subjects are children, those in nursing homes, or other people who don’t file their own returns.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Katie" examines the value of trade education v. college


Today, Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the “Katie” show on ABC (Katie Couric) examined the high cost of college, particularly from the viewpoint of college dropouts and people who don’t go to college.
  
Of course, some of the world’s most successful business people dropped out of college. 
   
But the most interesting part of the program concerned the value of “trades”, and people skilled in them (such as plumbing or maybe power company linemen) are becoming increasingly expensive and scarce.  We could get to the day when money won’t buy you all the skills you need.
   
“Mike Rowe” from “Dirty Jobs” presented the value of “learning a trade” instead of college, link here
  
One interesting question: how can students afford to take internships and pay back student loans>  Can recent engineering graduates afford to go overseas to the underdeveloped world to work on water projects, for example? 

During the Vietnam war, student draft deferments were generally available only to college students in science and math. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

CNN report about Wayne Williams, Atlanta, and CIA strains credibility


Sunday night (March 17, 2013), CNN offered a revised special report (the original had aired in 2011) about the Wayne Williams conviction for the Atlanta Child disappearances and killings near Atlanta GA in the early 1980s. 
   
Williams is now in his mid 50s and was interviewed by Soledad O’Brien.

The two-hour report is significant because there are hints that the 65-inmch Williams had been trained as an insurgency specialist by the CIA, at a time when it was suspected that KGB moles lived in the United States (the series “The Americans”).

It is hard to fathom any motive for the slayings, which resemble those in the film “West of Memphis” (movies, Jan. 25, 2013).  

Williams also failed lie detector evidence.  But forensic evidence, based on unusual carpet fibers, seems questionable.

The program invited audiences to vote on the verdict.  About 69% had voted guilty, 27% “not proven”.
  
The link is here. The revised documentary is simply called "The Atlanta Child Murders".  CNN seems to be moving more into "formal" documentary film, similar to HBO, sometimes adapting material having appeared at festivals.   

Update: March 21, 2015
 
CNN re-aired a condensed version of "Atlanta Child Murders" on March 21, 2015. There is a white supremacist who could have been a suspect.  
  

Again, the idea that the CIA trains employees “to kill” seems to strain credibility.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Piers Morgan interviews Martin Sheen, Mia Farrow, and Craig Kielburger ("We Day") about Pope Francis



Mia Farrow and Martin Sheen appeared on Piers Morgan this evening, to discuss the humility and austere poverty of the new Pope Francis, who has certainly “broken the rules” as to security, and who lived in a simple apartment in Buenos Aries. 
  
The new Pope chose his own name, so "Francis" suggests humility and service.


Mia and Martin both mentioned their disappointment with the Vatican’s attitude toward gay people “as a group”, and see it as contradictory to the Vatican’s emphasis on humility.

Martin said that he would remain Catholic even without a Pope. 
   
Craig Kielburger also appeared.  Kielburger’s activisim to free children from slavery and his “Me to We” movement has been covered on Nov. 25, 2012 (CNN) and May 26, 2008 (in connection with Oprah).
  
The link for Morgan’s interview tonight is here

Vatican morality may have a “generic” point:  sometimes people need to meet needs of others as they are confronted with these needs, and people may not always have a choice about this. In a world with sustainability issues and intractable inequality, to run away from such personal challenges might seem cowardly.

Piers Morgan then shifted the focus of the debate over to gun safety.

But then he got back to Kielburger’s “We Day”.  You have to volunteer to get in.  Kielbeurger says that service (and activism through activity) is as important as education.  If you look at the world of the inner city and gang life, this could make sense.  

  
Mia Farrow talked about “The Two R’s”< “Responsibility” and “Respect”.  They also talked about empathy.  

Later there was discussion of the Steubenville, Ohio trial.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PBS News Hour updates "The Invisible War" with more on sexual harassment in the military


Wednesday, March 13, 2013, PBS World News Hour reported on the problem of sexual assaults in the military, mostly of female enlisted, and the unwillingness of commands to prosecute them (only about 190 courts martial of about 19000 reports in 2012).  A few victims were male. In the past, female Naval officers who complained of harassment were remanded to psychiatric treatment!

Sexual harassment in the military is a throwback to days when men tended to connect sexual powers to having personal authority over others – in other words, power and manipulation. Lookism matters little in the military perception of masculinity. (Sort of like characterizing a chess gambit position where "material means nothing!")  

It’s interesting that the report followed SLDN’s Annual Dinner by only a few days.

One could almost postulate, "Heterosexuality is incompatible with military service".  

The report mentioned the documentary film “The Invisible War” (June 26, 2012 on the movies blog).
  
The PBS Hour also reported on new efforts by Erin Brokovich in environmentalism, testing for chromium in drinking water, starting in her own town in the Mojave Desert. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The "Bachelor" wants to get married (heterosexually) on live reality TV, on ABC


“The Bachelor” finale, “After the Final Rose”, turned silliness to dressy dignity, as Sean Lowe shows up in good clothes, having chosen Catherine (aka Kate), sitting on top an elephant in Thailand (the countryside looks very flat, and artificial, like another planet). 

Chris Harrison, who says he is an ordained minister, interviewed him.  Sean says he hasn’t set the heterosexual (and metrosexual) wedding date yet, but he wants to get married on live reality television.

There is a certain resemblance between his body and looks and that of “Brady” on “Days of our Lives”, of you know what I mean.  Good thing women don’t care.

Lindsay, “the sub”, paid Sean a visit, and professed her love for him.  She’s gotten over it.

Sean is on a red-eye flight tonight to appear on ABC GMA Tuesday morning.  I wonder where ABC puts people up.  Sean is a people person, a salesman, I think.  I don’t think a cabin in the Yotel (on 10th Avenue, in Hells Kitchen, filled with MacBooks on the lobby floor) would appeal to him.  I does to me, my favorite hotel n Manhattan. 
  
ABC resumes another favorite, “Dancing with the Stars”, March 18.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

CNN: "Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare", already had a theatrical release, unusual for the network


CNN tonight aired the two hour documentary by Matthew Heinenam,  “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare”.The metaphor in the title comes from a forest fire fighting technique demonstrated as the film opens.  

The film seems to be a close rework of the film aired previewed at the West End Cinema in Washington DC on Oct, 7, 2012 (see movies blog).  CNN has repackaged the work under the brand "CNN Films" and apparently lengthened if to almost a full two hours (probably by restoring deleted scenes).  I'll re-summarize a few of the points here.

This is the first time that I can recall that CNN aired a documentary in something close to the original theatrical format. Usually CNN originates its own documentaries, some of which would obviously lend themselves to theatrical adaptation (such as Anderson Cooper's "Planet in Peril").   
  
The focus of the film was reimbursement system of health care as a business, which encourages doctors to see as many patients as possible and see them repeatedly for the same problems, rather than prevent or fix the problems.  This is the problem with the “fee for service” model. We we could call it a "profitable disease care system".  
  
Innovations were many, however.  The Cleveland Clinic hires all doctors on salaries, and puts profits back into the hospital and has one of the lowest costs of any hospital company in the nation.  One female patent had over 27 stents before going to the Clinic.  Stents are said not to prevent actual heart attacks. Apparent she also had two bypasses.  She had the stents before risk factors were controlled. 
  
One session showed a tidewater Virginia doctor giving acupuncture to a wounded soldier.
  
Another sequence showed a family man with many stents back in the hospital repeatedly for heart disease systems, and he wasn’t that old.

  
The link for the film is here.
  
Sanjay Gupta held a half hour town hall afterwards, which he also titled "Rescuing Health Care" and explained particularly how many stents are unnecessary.  70% of stents and angioplasties are done in patients with symptomatic heart disease and unstable angina.  

Supporting Gupta (and the film) is a report from ABC News on Feb, 28, 2012 by Carrie Gann, "For coronary artery diseases, meds are efficient as stents", link here.

It's possible to have acceptable EKG's but irregular heartbeat associated with increasing hypertension and narrowing of coronary arteries.  The latest information suggests that stents are not that helpful.  Bypass surgery is often done quickly, but can also fail.  Some patients may do as well with just medication and no surgical intervention.

People vary as to temperament how much intervention they want.  Some people with tolerable symptoms (anginas, palpitations, etc) may do better doing very little unless they are willing to submit to invasive procedures and try everything.   There seems to be a wide gap in opinion as to how aggressive surgery should be,  Remember that TV host David Letterman was hauled into emergency coronary bypass surgery in January 2000 but has done well since.  Esquire Magazine poked fun at him for joining "the Zipper Club".

Gupta showed a number of medical devices and explained how the cost is so high.  (That portion was also on an earlier special.)

Compare this film with Michael Moore's "Sicko".

Friday, March 08, 2013

ABC 20-20 covers the "buyer beware" problem in residential real estate


Tonight’s ABC 20-20 episode was “Inside Secrets of Real Estate Agents”, and the show presented real estate as a competitive, go-getter and manipulative business (“always be closing”).  Barbara Corcoran did a lot of the reporting, especially about homeowner staging.  I had friends in the business when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s and it didn’t seem so wild as it is now.
  
The film covered homeowner hazards.

The most recent controversy concerns sinkholes in Florida, including the recent catastrophe where a man fell into a sinkhole to his death while in his bedroom near Tampa FL.  The show did not show as much of the science of sinkholes (and the problems of aquifer draining and honoring mandatory insurance coverage) as have other films (including CNN and an important short film fom Vice Media on my CF blog March 6).  The report did show a contractor fixing the foundation of a sinkhole-vulnerable home for about $50000. 
  
The report also covered a family that moved into a foreclosure in Oregon, only to find remnants of crystal meth in the house, exposing the kids. The family had to rent another house and keep paying a mortgage, although the "as is" house was only $35000. 

Another family moved to Louisville KY and found it self constantly awakened by cargo planes from the nearby airport.

And a family in upstate New York had seriously problems when the power company expanded a nearby generating station.  Could that affect the operation of PC’s and electronics?

  
The link for the report from Jim Avila is here
  
One family lives in a cemetery, and another Doomdsay Prepper lives in an underground nuclear weapons shelter.   

Thursday, March 07, 2013

"King of the Nerds" finale tonight on TBS: Are nerds "special"?


I sampled the finale of the TBS reality series “King of the Nerds” tonight.
   
The comic show goes through a spoof of all the bigger reality shows – but this is more a biggest winner than biggest loser.  “Celeste” won, with her gaming tattoos.  I’m not much a fan of body art unless its non-destructive and removable.  But then you’re “faking it”.

One of the cute games was a reality maze, where people drive through on mopeds.  What I think would be cool would be something like a reality model railroad, where people live electronically in the cities and spaces on the model railroad layout.  That could be be pretext of a sci-fi horror film (in fact, something like that happens in my 2004 Project Greenlight screenplay “Baltimore Is Missing”).

At the end, one of the guy (Ivan)s said, a good nerd is “special without being different”.  Clark Kent had out it in reverse, “I’m different, but I’m not special.”  Sure, someone who can catch his own forward passes isn’t special?
    
The link is here.


In the video above, Brando is the professor of neuroscience, a subject that might be tainted now., but this clip is more ancient.
  
There’s no reason that nerds shouldn’t be “attractive”.  They can even become pop stars. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

"Body of Proof" resurrects "The Exorcist" with another Regan


Was the episode “Breakout” on ABC’s “Body of Proof” last night (10 PM) a spoof of “The Exorcist”?  The poor girl (Brooke Lynn Howard) was aspirating on her own vomit (at least not the green split-pea soup in the movie), and was stabbed a couple times with chest tubes.  She seemed to be bleeding out, as if with Ebola. This didn’t even look like something that would be medically survivable.  And all Dad could say was that she needed “The Lord” or something like that.  She probably needed detoxification from drugs. 

This time, the background isn’t Georgetown in Washington DC, but center city Philadelphia, right over the 30th Street Station so beloved to Amtrak passengers.  At least it looked like Philly to me.   Maybe the gilr’s house is in Fishtown, a favorite place for libertarian writer Charles Murray. 


Very seriously, on “Katie” recently, there was an episode where a mother related an incident where her daughter, after a bad trip with argo-fake marijuana, was admitted to a psychiatric ward (I think in Philadelphia), and was so uncontrollable that she was put into a medically induced coma (about to happen on “Breakout” as the episode ended).  The parents were told that the daughter might become brain dead or become permanently dependent.  Actually, the real life teenage girl is recovering, although slowly, and appeared on Katie.  
  
Regarding Amtrak, the trains used to stop also at North Philadelphia, in an area now documented in the film “A Place at the Table” as one of the nation’s worst “food deserts” for poor people.
  
Imdb says that some of the first season of “Body of Proof” was actually filmed in Rhode Island.  I didn’t pick up any familiar scenery, although I had visited the late filmmaker Gode David in Providence in 2003.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

"Red Widow": An ex-housewife joins the Mafia to protect her kids, maybe?

I guess ABC’s idea of a “Red Widow” is a wife who discovers her husband’s illegal business affairs and winds up working for the Mafia herself after her husband is taken.

Radha Mitcell plays the devoted wife Marta Walrwven, raising her three kids (the oldest, Gabriel, is played by the appealing Sterling Beaumon) is ritzy suburb north of the San Francisco Bay.  Her husband, Evan (Anson Mount) is heavily involved in shady dealings with longshoremen and imports of cocaine. The opening scenes of the Pilot (2 hours, March 3, directed by creator Mark Pellington)  give us a preview when bad guy Nichola Schiller (Goran Visnjic) knocks off  some enemies on the dock.  Pretty soon, Marta finds Evan shot on her own driveway.  In the ensuing scramble, she finds that she will have to play the Mafia’s game to protect her family. 

There is a subplot in that the husband had intended that his wife and kids enter witness protection.  That puts an end to any aspirations for an Internet career for the kids.

I don’t know whether the premise – of a woman learning the ways of organized crime to protect her kids, will hold an audience over time.  But the series (based on a Dutch series called “Peniza”) has only eight episodes. 

The writing seem to follow the didactics of Screenwriting 101 -- create dire urgency.  
   
The official site is here

Sunday, March 03, 2013

CNN: "Ben Affleck: Back on Top"


On Saturday night, March 2, CNN aired the honorarium, “Ben Affleck: Back on Top”, a one hour report on how Ben Affleck’s  career has rebounded, to the winning of Best Picture for his 2012 film “Argo”.  (CNN calls him an "auteur!) The report starts at the beginning, with his boyhood.  His career started in Cambridge MA with his friend Matt Damon, growing up  two blocks away.  Both had single moms but pretty much raised one another. They collaborated in the 1990s on “Good Will Hunting” after both had moved to California.
  
Ben started to “slip” and checked himself into a rehab center in 2001 (Martin Sheen drove him there).  Some of his films in the middle 00’s flopped (I thought that “Paycheck”, which I saw on New Year’s Eve before 2004, wasn’t bad).   “Daredevil” hadn’t done much for me.
  
His career picked up when he went back to Massachusetts and directed “Gone. Baby Gone”, casting his younger brother Casey.  (Casey Affleck and Matt Damon had made “Gerry” for Gus Van Sant, a tragic story of two young hikers lost in the Mojave Desert).  Later, Ben would make “The Town” (remember, “I’m going to hurt some people.”)

Executives from The Weinstein Company (formerly connected to Miramax) and Cohen Media Group (which prefers international films) discussed Affleck's work.  
  
The link for the show is here


At the Oscars, Ben said “You gotta get up” when you’re down as he accept the Oscar for Best Picture, even though he had been “shunned” for Best Director
  .
In 2004 I saw the play “Matt & Ben” at the DC Arts Center, as put on by the Accokeekcreek Theater Group, by Mindy Kalig and Brenda Withers.  

Although both Matt and Ben are married to women, gay publications tried to make a lot of their friendship in glossy rags in the 90s.  

Saturday, March 02, 2013

"Helping Hands": kindness on a paid program


Michael and Sons Helping Hands (link), on Saturday mornings at 10 AM on NBC4 (NBC Washington) is presented as a “paid program”.  That was a bit of a surprise.
  
Today, the heating contractor helped a single mom with three sons, the youngest of whom has multiple sclerosis.  The two older brothers are responsible for looking after him.
  
An oil furnace had failed (I think the house was in Massachusetts), and could not be repaired.  Michael agreed to replace her system with an electric furnace for very little house.
  
She had been using an oven and electric heaters to heat some rooms in the house.
Michael also lectured one of the older sons to make the most of himself.



Update: March 16, 2013

Today, the company helped a woman raising a disabled son in Central Virginia, where the home was damaged by both the 2011 Louisa County earthquake, and a tornado.  The foundation was very unstable. The site of the home appeared to be near the Twin Oaks intentional community, which I reviewed on my "Major Issues" blog on April 7, 2012.  

The website for the show is here.

Update: March 8, 2014


The broadcast this morning may have been the same,  A young man, with tattooed forearms, has to take care of a seriously disabled brother, and mother, near Triangle VA.  I'm not sure if this is a different episode or not.  I see people having to take care of younger siblings (not their own kids) all the time on shows like this. It happens.