Monday, September 30, 2013

SNL introduces, tests "new cast members" but seems a little flat otherwise

Saturday Night Live started out as reasonably funny Sept. 28, with a mockery of government, although the humor seemed directed more at Obamacare itself than on the dysfunctional Congress, which has become downright dangerous. Perhaps a conservative to libertarian element has made its way into SNL comedy.

Tina Fey was the leadoff hitter, as if to play small ball, get on base, steal, draw infield errors.   Seth Meyers is not joined by Cecily Strong.  I thought that Seth could have hit “those Republicans” in the House a little harder (he did jab at Senator Cruz) but maybe he didn’t want to.

There are some new cast members, and the young men were asked to show up in their shorts for inspection (no cigarette smoking damage allowed, as the days of X-Files are over) and one of the guys “got it” in a skit quickly, unusual.  Justin Bieber, remember, narrowly escaped last year.  This was a Saturday night it was not necessary to go clubbing.


The link for the show is here


I was told in a restaurant in NYC in February that if you want tickets, you have to get in line at 30 Rock on a Saturday morning, first come first serve.  Come up on the train the day before.  Is that how it works? 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

ABC's "Betrayal" seems like derivative prime-time soap opera; "Revenge" restarts with Nolan making a grand entrance, but somebody shoots Emily

ABC kicked off a new series tonight, “Betrayal”, with a Pilot directed by Patty Jenkins. 

The series, set in Chicago, is said to be based on a Dutch series with a similar precept, but it sounds a little less exciting than the “Dragon Tattoo” series.  A beautiful photographer Sara Hadley (Hannah Ware) has an affair with Drew McAlister (a powerful family lawyer of the soap opera variety).  She’s married to a prosecutor, Drew (Chris Johnson), young and handsome enough, so you wonder why the affair.  Maybe all this is because this soap-like series is new, so there hasn’t been time to get used to quirky characters (like on “Days”).  The family patriarch is Thatcher Karsten (James Cromwell), who is the ABC series’s equivalent of a “Stefano”.  Tatcher has a disabled son TJ (Henry Thomas), who is thought to be dimwitted because of a tragic accident but who desperately wants to prove himself worthy, as shown in a touching scene with this dad. Dad says to his son "Accept your limitations" after TJ offered to "keep him company."
  
ABC’s site is here. The series is supposed to run only 13 episodes.

  

ABC’s “Revenge” kicked off Sunday night at 9 PM EDT with “Fear”, where Emily is shot in the stomach in the first minute.  The rest of the episode is flashback, going back to a Memorial Day weekend party, where Nolan flies in on a personal (literally) flying-man jet.  Nolan has apparently been released by the FBI after his arrest at the end of the previous season right after the power blackout.  He looks as young as ever (the actor Gabriel Mann is 41 but looks like 28 here – it helps to be slender), and has become very much the bisexual Renaissance Man, a sort of Internet-age da Vinci.  

There was a curious incident where the elder Grayson collapses when speaking at the party (after Nolan's entrance) and is said to have Huntington's Disease/  I'm not sure this presentation was medically correct. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Showtime's "Masters of Sex" does play some games with some of my personal sensitivities

I got to preview the first episode of “Masters of Sex”, to premier on Showtime next Sunday night, at a small HRC fundraiser Thursday night at the Town Discotheque in Washington DC (described in the LGBT blog). 
  
The pilot is directed by John Madden, starts in 1956 at Washington University in St. Louis. Michael Sheen plays Dr. William Masters, with Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson.   Masters and Johnson, of course, are credited for the “sexual revolution”, mostly for heterosexuals first.  In fact, they would publish a huge compendium book “Heterosexuality” in the 1990’s.  They would become vociferous in warning that HIV would eventually and routinely affect heterosexuals.
  
The Pilot eventually comes around to setting up “live experiments”.  Electrocardiographic leads are attached to the chests, arms, and legs of a man and woman about to “do it”.  In the 1950’s, the were perhaps larger than they are today.   You notice that it is convenient that women almost never have chest hair, and the male, fortunately, doesn’t have much.  But the rest of his body is a but defiled (why put the electrodes on the top of the forearm?  You might as well do a tattoo there.)   Who could “do me” under such humiliating conditions?

The film also shows surgery advanced to an amazing degree for the 1950’s.  It may have been further along than we think.  My own mother had a hysterectomy at GWU in the mid 50s, and I was born at the old Columbia Hospital for Women nearby in 1943.   Medicine knew more then than we realize today. 
  
The Showtime website is here and the production company is listed as Sony Pictures Television.
  


The pilot was well-liked by the screening audience.  I wonder if this subject matter would have made a better documentary feature film than a long television series.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NBC "Revolution" starts Season II, without any convincing explanations for the blackout, except "duck and cover"

NBC resumed its series by JJ Abrams “Revolution” on September 26, with an episode titled “Born in the USA”.  The episode next week will be titled “There Will Be Blood”.  Both episode titles come from “notorious” but hard-hitting films.
  
The promos have been promising to answer “why”.  It seems that when the power came back on at the very end of Season 1, nuclear missiles were launched on several cities, including Atlanta and Philadelphia.  No more Braves and Phillies.
  
The power went out a few minutes after it came back on, and stayed out.  So are we to infer that the only reason was to prevent a nuclear attack that was to happen anyway? 
  
There are these robotic fireflies that decorate the air with fog sometimes, like in the popular song.
It seems that not much is left right now but the Plains Nation.
  
  
I don’t find an extended post-apocalyptic study of the politics of a “new world order” unless there is a much clearer connection to the old.  The show never has explained very well, “Why”.   I don’t think I would survive very long in such a world myself. 
   

Wikipedia attribution link for geography of the US after “Revolution” 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Modern Family" resumes, post Prop-8

ABC’s “Modern Family” resumed tonight with two half-hour episodes.

In the opening, there was a celebration of the anti-Proposition-8 victory last spring in California, with a suggestion that Cam and Mitch could get married, but there wasn’t all that much progress.  There was a great line from one of the kids, “don’t talk about gay marriage, just speak of it as marriage”.
  
In the second half-hour, Cam’s position as a middle school drama and music teacher has been eliminated, so Cam becomes a long term substitute teacher or “sub”.  Cam is assigned an AP history class (no, it wouldn’t be funny to give him special education).  He goes to class dressed as George Washington, and says that the Revolutionary War started over a libertarian-driven battle over property rights.  (I didn’t know that Cam belongs to GLIL – Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty and would be more likely to support a Libertarian Party candidate in California than a Democratic candidate). 
Subsequently Cam accidentally steps into the position of being a football coach – in the most macho of contact sports, under an ethical cloud over the concussion issue (as with Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that football is morally problematic).  Maybe he could do something like ice hockey or baseball (coach the next ace MLB pitcher like Stephen Strasburg growing up in southern California).

There's a moment in the AP History Class where Cam lightly touches a female student on the shoulder -- when I was a sub, I wouldn't even have done that.  
  

I didn’t see the character Dylan (Reid Ewing), and given the popularity, at least on YouTube, or Reid’s songs “In the Moonlight (Do Me)" and “Imagine Me Naked”,  (The script made a sly allusion to his "Traffic Jam" with a mention of a blot clot on the infamous 405, where I stayed myself my last time in LA).  I am bemused about what his role was supposed to me.  Wikipedia describes the character as pure irony, denying the virtues of normal competitiveness, someone who lends himself to mockumentary, which is normally very difficult to pull off effectively, but Reid (in his own “Reid Rainbow” libertarian-freedom videos on Igigi) has become a master of writing and acting it.  Will “Dylan” be back?  In fact, Reid describes the concept of character as one of “charisma” in his own interview, and the concept of songwriting as something that just comes naturally and spontaneously (more on a guitar or banjo than piano).  I think that music composition is like that – even when hypermodern – an idea plays in one’s head, in one’s dreams, and takes on a life of its own, even if it gets worked into a twelve-tone row. 


Picture: The 405 from the Angelino Hotel bar in May 2012;  The notorious intersection with Highway 101 is about four miles to the north.  West Hollywood and Bel-Air are nearby.  

Update: Nov. 24, 2015

Reid Ewing says he was never "in", according to this story.  But Erich Stonestreet (Cam) says he is straight in real life.  Actors have to be versatile.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

NBC series "The Blacklist": Seems like a lot of hype

NBC has highly touted its new drama series “The Blacklist”, which opened Monday night at 10 PM.  The Pilot, directed by Joe Carahan with script by Joe Bokenkamp, confronts us with the surrender of super-fugitive Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) at the FBI Headquarters.  They didn’t look real – and the scene reminded me of the arrest of Aldrich Ames on Presidents Day in 1994. 

Reddington, one of the ten most wanted, has sold himself as a mercenary for years.  Now, he prepares to lead the FBI to a secret “blacklist” all the worst existential terrorists that they didn’t know about this.  Where will this series take us, to dirty bombs and EMP flux guns? 

The first episode forces on one Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) whose attractive husband Tom (Ryan Egglod) is bloodied up in a horrific truck wreck attack on what looks like the Anacostia Bridge.  She will talk about to Raymond.  Is she his long abandoned daughter?

The NBC link is her
  
Can any one of us be on the Blacklist? Ask the NSA.




Sunday, September 22, 2013

CNN gives history of the Unabomber, explains the "Manifesto"; more on mental illness in intellectual young men

CNN resumed its “Crimes of the Cemtury” series Sunday night with a biography of Ted Kacyznski, the “Unabomber”.


The story is now well known, as on Wikipedia here. The most interesting and unusual part of the story concerns his writing a “Manifesto” and his demanding that newspapers publish it.  The Washington Post published it on Sept. 19, 1995, and eventually the wife of the brother of Ted recognized the writing style and material. The Manifesto was titled “Industrial Society and its Future”.  It is available free on the Internet, which makes the controversy over print 18 years ago seem dated.  One location is on the English Server here. Wikipedia’s piece on TK does analyze it.

The writer actually made some interesting comments about forced socialization, but his view that technology hampers freedom seems very much at odds with modern society, unless you are not just a Luddite but also a Doomsday Prepper.

TK lived for about seventeen years in a “cabin in the woods” in Montana and started mailing devices after about the first nine.  He had been admitted to Harvard early and was traumatized by social ostracism and apparently by a deliberate government experiment. Since TK earned a doctorate in his 20’s, his apparent mental illness (which he denied when he was apprehending, preferring prison or possible death penalty to being labeled insane) should be compared with that of James Holmes in Colorado. The documentary makes a disturbing reference to Asperger's Syndrome. 
I remember the controversy over the Manifesto well.  I had started working on my DADT book by then, and some coworkers knew about it and were already calling it “The Manifesto”.  

TK is presented as having no remorse at all.   He saw his victims as "war casualties" who had taken up what he saw as the immoral cause of technology.  It's hard to make sense of this.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Millionaire" host produces documentary for NBC on cancer survivor Valerie Harper

Meredith Vieira, former host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, has produced and directed a one hour documentary “Valerie’s Story” (Sept. 19), about actress Valerie Harper’s battle with cancer.
   
She was originally diagnosed with cancer (at 73) after a wrist Xray showed a metastasis of a bizarre lung cancer.  The cancer then spread to her brain.  Valerie pointed out that 60% of lung cancers occur in non-smokers.


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

The documentary took her through repeated medical tests that showed near remission, as well as alternative therapies. It did not dwell on the hair loss, nausea, and need for support as much as have other documentaries.  
  
Harper also says that cancer conspiracy theories are “beyond stupid”.


Friday, September 20, 2013

BBC Documentary "Titan: A Place Like Home" is most complete look ever of Saturn's earthy moon


YouTube was good enough to flash before me the BBC “Horizon Series” documentary, “Titan: A Place Like Home,” written and directed by Paul Olding, 48 minutes.\
  
It’s posted on YouTube by Documentary Channel.
  
  
The film appears to have aired first in January 2013, and the BBC link is here
  
The first two-thirds of the film deals with the technical challenge faced by NASA and the ESA in getting Cassini, which incorporated the actual Titan landing craft called Huygens, to the largest moon of Saturn, and the only satellite in the Solar System with a significant atmosphere.  Wikipedia gives the history, from the 1997 launch of Cassini-Huygens to the Saturn Rings transit and Titan landing in January 2005, here. The NASA staff had to reprogram the signals because of a timing problem, and then had trouble getting half of the signals during the landing.
  
Still, the images that NASA got were riveting. The BBC film shows images that are more detailed than ever seen before in film.   There are many artists’ renditions of the dusky orange landscape that a visitor would seen, again, more than ever seen in a commercial film.  There are methane rains with flooding into lakes and rivers;  there is a sanding surface but cyrovolcanoes of water ice.   The surface shows erosion much as would Earth’s.


I see that PBS and the History Channel have given some footage of Titan before, particularly in 2011 (“Astronomy” label): BBC had a short (6 minutes) on Titan in March 2011.

Titan has all the ingredients for life to evolve, but it may be simply too cold.  But maybe self-replicating organic chemistry can evolve there -- the thiols are a good clue. There bay be a subterranean ocean under the ice under much or all of the surface (as with Europa). 
    
I have a screenplay named “69 Minutes to Titan”, based on the idea that at closed approach, that’s about how long it would take light to reach it (check here) .  Normally it can take several hours.  In my screenplay, a protagonist meets a precocious teen, who may be an angel for another planet, and gets into trouble, but before finding out that “angels” have set up an outpost on Titan. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

PBS "Brains on Trial" with Alan Alda; is the brain guilty, or the person?

Wednesday night, PBS stations aired a new episode of “Brains on Trial” with Alan Alda.
  
The program simulated a shooting case in New York where an 18-year old  (Jimmy Moran played by  Luke Murtha, with hair thinning too much for a teen) started a robbery and “accidentally” shot someone and permanently disabled her.

The docudrama looked at the brains of teens playing simulated video games driving and found that they take more chances and “fail to see around corners” when they are with peers.  The brain does not completely wire until about age 25.  The brains scans were done at Vanderbilt in Tennessee.

Psychopaths have low activity in certain areas of the brain.

The broadcast raised questions of whether the “person” is on trail or the brain.

The defendant winds up with a lenient 12-year sentence.  The judge talks like he is compassionate.  


The WETA link is here. The PBS link is here

The discussion of neuroscience seems timely and disturbing, because James Holmes (perpetrator of the Aurora CO shootings) had been a neuroscience doctoral student, as if to unravel his own brain.
    
An important issue would be impulse control, particularly when the person has not read society’s signals on what are acceptable and unacceptable things to say or “blurt out” in a public place.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

PBS Frontline: Egypt in Crisis

Tuesday night, PBS Frontline aired “Egypt in Crisis”, a one hour documentary, link here.   One impression that is apparent, is how quickly the political stakes change, and how rebels can put huge crowds in Cairo’s public spaces for any change in power.
  
The best place for a quick summary of history since Mubarak’s ouster is on Wikipedia, here.  What is striking is the way politicians and the military scheme to nullify constitutional procedures that would be respected in western countries.   The military is portrayed as having become like a large private company.  And Morsi’s desire to retry Mubarak’s supporters would prove provocative. 

  
Ultimately, revolution brought back more authoritarianism, which is so often the case, as Morsi and his forces sought to implement an Islamic state.
  
In the meantime, it’s not a good time to go see the Pyramids. 
  

Wikipedia attribution link, meeting between Kerry and Morsi, May 2013. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Queen Latifah replaces Anderson Cooper on daytime TV (apparently)


In the DC area, the premier of Queen Latifah’s daytime show on ABC waited a day because of the news coverage of the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard Sept. 16. It appears that the Sept. 16 kickoff (with John Travolta) was not shown here.

So the opening here was with Will Smith.  But a lot of the show was a game of Jeopardy (so to speak) with Alex Trebek.  The link for the episode is (website url) here.

In some markets, Latifah replaces Anderson Cooper’s daytime show, which was stopped as of the end of the 2012-2013 season.  That show (“where the real conversation begins”) tended to focus on people with extreme problems, although sometimes it hit hard real issues, such as the setting up of “libel web sites”.  Cooper came out as openly gay about a year ago, and Hollywood Reporter has a glowing report here.  Right now, that leaves him with his AC360 show, which airs twice each weeknight, and special.  However, his contract with CNN as a news anchor ends this fall.  USA Today has a story here

In Washington DC, Queen Latifah airs on WJLA (ABC) as syndicated, but Hollywood Reporter shows it as having originated with CBS.

Cooper could turn some of his specials (like “Planet in Peril”) into documentary film for theaters, it seems to me.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

CNN: "Prince William's Passion: New Father, New Hope": William follows his father in environmental activism and filmmaking

On Sunday, September 15, 2013, CNN aired a special documentary, “Prince William’s Passion: New Father, New Hope”, link. The film traced William’s interest in conservation of wild species in Africa, and also gave the history of his travels with Kate to Kenya when he proposed.   Prince Charles is also very involved in environmentalism, as with his film “Harmony” for Dateline, reviewed here Nov. 19, 2010.
  
The film covered in detail poaching of elephants and rhinoceroses, as well as the well-being of big cats, including lions and cheetahs.  There was footage in Madagascar, South Africa, and Kenya.
   
I wondered how William would feel about the political situation in Uganda, with the tremendous problem with the anit-gay law there, not 200 miles from where he proposed to Kate.
     
William says that becoming a father (or Prince George) makes him want to protect the natural world for his posterity. 

  

William administers the Tusk Trust Awards (link) over which he presides in the film. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Jerusalem", West Bank and Gaza kick off new CNN season of Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown"

Anthon Bourdain Parts Unknown” visited Jerusalem, Israel, and then the West Bank on his Sunday, September 15, 2013 episode, titled “Jerusalem”. The best link is this

Bourdain say his ancestors are both Catholic and Jewish but he does not profess a faith.  But he was viewed as Jewish when in Israel.

Bourdain showed “The Wall” (most of it within the West Bank) and said it looked like it came from a science fiction movie. He visited families on the West Bank, and later Gaza, where he explained how the area had elected Hamas.  He did explain some of the restrictions on travel by Palestinians. He did not get much into the way the land was confiscated from them.


Bourdain explained that all Islamic families offer “radical hospitality” to guests with inventive food, which was vegan in Gaza.
  

On the International Issues blog, I’ve covered the work of George Meek on Dec. 23, 2012 and May 20, 2013. 

NatGeo: "Time Travel: The Truth"

Time Travel: The Truth”, a 45-minute documentary by Maire Tracey, seems to have aired on National Geographic Channel in the fall of 2012, but I can’t find a direct link at NatGeo website.  Instead, there are several YouTube videos placed private, such as this one.
  
The film starts by introducing time as a dimension in 4-way space-time.  We think of places on Earth in two dimensions on a map (postal addresses) but Donald Trump can give us a lesson on air rights.  Is the same true of time? 
  
I think that an appreciation of time can affect how we perceive people.  A perfect 21-year –old athlete today will, given enough time and living long enough, become an old man – unless he is Clark Kent or an angel, the stuff of science fiction.  The reverse is true.  I was once a 20 year old, with hair on my scalp and legs.  One could imagine a space where every person exists at their own biological best.  Again, science fiction.  Over time, in our experience, organisms decay because of entropy, and so they must reproduce to overcome it.
  
The film explains the relationship between mass, energy, gravity and time, and shows how time pass more slowly when under the influence of gravity. Michio Kaku leads off with general explanations.  A young professor from Manchester England Brian Cox (not the actor) speaks, followed by Princeton Professor Richard Gott, who proposes how a time machine could be built with massive cosmic strings, but only civilizations with access to the amount of energy in a galaxy could build them.  The Lon Mallett demonstrates the possibility of a time machines based on loops of light, since light has energy, which converts to mass and eventually gravity, which can bend time.  In nature, a kind of time machine could occur inside a rotating black hole, but you never check out of one.  It might also occur with a “worm hole” in space time.
  
The last part of the film talks about the paradox implicit in backwards time travel – you can’t change the past -- the irreversible nature of the "time arrow of physics."  You can walk upstairs but never come down again, safely, except in thought.  That is, you can’t undo a crime you just committed one second ago after you pulled a trigger.  Your own sense of free will – you own identity – will deal with the punishment and jail, maybe even death row.   Until that moment of no return, punishment and jail is what other “free wills” experience – unless you are framed or unjustly prosecuted and convicted for something you didn’t “do”.  This can go another direction – into “thought crime”, telepathy, “pre-crime”, or “Minority Report”.  Other films to recall are "Time Bandits" (Terry Gilliam, 1981, Embassy) and "The Time Machine", H.G. Wells story, the most recent film coming from Warner Brothers in 2002 and director Simon Wells with Guy Pearce. 
      
But physicists get around this problem by proposing a countably infinite collection of parallel universes. I’m not sure I buy this, except that contemplation of the afterlife makes one wonder.  Maybe in “death”, while you cannot “experience” in the normal sense, you know about other universes and your consciousness (or partition of a larger soul) moves to another universe.  Maybe because of my karma, I get reborn into a world where Hitler won WWII. 






Friday, September 13, 2013

"The Power Inside": a "social film", keeps a lively pace with its characters; a premise about "sacrifice"

The Power Inside” is the first “social film (or social media movie) that I have viewed.  The concept is essentially like a television series, usually comedy, with short weekly episodes (often under ten minutes each), with heavy presence in social media (especially Facebook) and the opportunity for social media users to audition for parts in subsequent episodes.

The series was developed by Intel and Toshiba, and I watched the first five episodes (averaging about seven minutes each) on a Toshiba Satellite under Windows 8.  It is directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon.

The “plot” concerns a young nerd Neil (played by British actor Craig Roberts) is confronted by a gang of mustached aliens who are chasing Neil around (starting on his birthday) who somehow need Neil (or some super power inside him) to help destroy Earth.  The antidote of choice is the barber and the straight razor, to remove the mustaches (which in the series  look obviously paste-on and fake) and perhaps bushy eyebrows.  One of the episodes has a nice black-and-white animated interlude showing the alien civilization and the hunt for the Queen. 
  
The Barber (Harvey Keitel) says to Neal “There’s nothing like a good shave to start the day.”  Later, Neil is confronted with the demand that he step-up for others, and says, “I hate sacrifice. I’m really selfish.”  Is this libertarian?  Not exactly.  What if we ever restored the military draft?  Every recruit passes through the barber at the Reception Station.  Oh, I;m getting serious about something that is supposed to be "tons of fun." Another veteran actor, Matt Walsh, plays the High Priest.
  
Analeigh Tipton plays Neil’s girlfriend Ashley, but the sleeper performance comes from Reid Ewing, who plays Devin, who starts out as one of the “aliens”.  When the “stache” is removed, he becomes the sweet character like Dylan from “Modern Family”, with just a little bit of the “Reid.ing” video cockiness thrown in.  There’s almost an allusion to the character Samson in the Bible.  Reid towers over the other characters in this show (he didn’t so much in “Crush” (Movies blog, Aug. 1, 2013), given the way camera angles were managed), looking rather like a potential MLB pitcher and strikeout artist.

Great line in Episode. 2 when Devin says to Neil, "I need you... come with me to the bathroom, NOW!"
     
The link for the show and the episodes is here

The show invites auditions through Facebook.  Contestants (male or female) are invited to show themselves shaving off or tearing off mustaches or possibly eyebrows.  At least, they’re not into chest or leg waxing (or laser to make it permanent), or maybe tattooing .  You wonder if that could be next.  After all, this supposed to be about sacrifice. 

The show is shot 2.35:1, which seem unnecessary for what is essentially a television series.  The outdoor scenery is all LA, complete with palm trees, smog, and distant traffic jams, and an emptied swimming pool in the Hollywood Hills.
  

Oh, I once (in my first apartment in Princeton NJ back in 1970) had a stray cat whom we called “Mustache”.  


Update: Sept 20:

Episode 6 was longer, almost 13 minutes (with a long end credits), and had a full alien invasion of London and LA.  Neil is placed on a sacrificial altar on Mt. Wilson in LA, protected by a shroud, and has to cut off a huge alien insect that tries to go down his throat.  A few months later, Neil is the barber himself.  A man comes in wanting his mustache removed, and, well, he's probably ready for a body shave, too (like in a short story in "The Advocate" in 1984).  Trouble is, his chest hair isn't human; it looks like it came from a giant spider.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

ABC's "The Lookout" for consumers, doesn't want to become another news show



ABC’s The Lookout, with Bill Weir and Cynthia McFadden, has been providing some interesting consumer reporting, mostly on Wednesday nights.  Curiously, ABC doesn’t seem to have a regular site for it, and the episodes seem to be untitled.  I believe it belongs to the Nightline show. The best description of the most recent episode seems to be on MSN, here

On September 4, the broadcast started as Brian Ross reported on Rory Michael Alarcon( RMA) and the problems consumers found with his “mortgage rescue” business.  Apparently consumers were told they shouldn’t even continue to make regular payments to the bank.

Next the show covered fake rental listings, where phantom landlords took multiple deposits on the same vacation property from multiple consumers, who never got the keys to the rental property.
Then the reported covered outrageous fees at ATM’s in Las Vegas on the strip.  The reporters also covered snatch pickpocketing at casinos, which can easily take a guest’s room keys and money, unless the guest keeps hand in pockets.
   
Next, the team compared the cost of car rentals at airports, with the cost of getting transportation to town to get the same cars at non-airport outlets, which were nearly always cheap enough to justify the cost of extra transportation.
  
Finally, the team covered “mattress wars”.  Rich people pay up to $200000 for mattresses.  Mine has creaky springs now.  The team said the typical mattress lasts only about ten years. 


CNN resumes "Crossfire" with Newt Gingrich reporting; will he get around to debating power grid security?

Crossfire premiered (or resumed) on Monday night on CNN at 6:30 PM EDT. The basic link is here

Newt Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter hosted. 

Gingrich asked if we would ever see Putin bail out President Obama.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that bombing Assad would lead to more instability. He did say that it would be appropriate to try Assad for war crimes.  There is some question as to whether Assad actually authorized the use of chemical weapons.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D) said he was cautiously optimistic about a resolution.


Later, the panel discussed Putin’s proposal to sponsor international control of Syria’s chemical weapons and their removal from Syria.

At the end. Gingrich goes to “ceasefire”. 
  

Will Gingrich soon take up his concerns with the power grid, against EMP attack and solar storms, and invite Roscoe Bartlett, Michael Maloof, William Forstchen and Byron Dorgan. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

CNN: "Syria in Crisis: A Town Hall Special" with Chris Cuomo

On Thursday night, CNN aired “Syria in Crisis: A Town Hall Special” with Chris Cuomo subbing for Piers Morgan.

Cuomo mentions the president’s winning the Pulitzer Peace Prize in 2009, and suggests he has changed his direction.

The current crisis in Syria has developed quite quickly, starting in mid 2011.

Tony Blinken spoke about the intelligence from the White House.  Rumsfeld said, “If intelligence was a fact, it would be called a fact and not intelligence.”

CNN’s basic link is here.
   
Cuomo asked the panel about whether a “reasonable doubt” standard applies here.
Many speakers feel that the case has not been made that our own national security interests justify strikes.

But Cuomo mentioned Senator Diane Feinstein’s comment that she had been to the classified briefing and was much more receptive to the president’s arguments for “going in”. 

CNN’s National Security Analyst Townsend spoke. 

George Little, the Pentagon Press Secretary, spoke about the overwhelming evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. I would hate to have to work as somebody else’s spokesperson.

Cuomo quizzed him on the inconsistency of Obama’s message, not wanting to toppl e the regime.

The audience poll did not support intervention.

A young woman asked why sarin or chemical weapons use constituted a red line when the US had used napalm and agent orange in Vietnam.

An attractive young man said who said he was from Syria said that he supported Assad, and that any regime change (which Obama says he does not want) would actually make life for most Syrians worse.  This was the most amazing moment of the show.   
   
  

Newt Gingrich also spoke an opposed intervention. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Steve Harvey lets women pick "America's Hottest Husband"; what women want may surprise a lot of (straight) men

Steve Harvey (on NBC in Washington at 2 PM weekdays) did a variation of the “who is the hottest” contest that started Facebook today, with his “America’s Hottest Husband” contest, link here

The four finalists were Tyler, Shaun, Brian, and Travis.  Brian’s wife said, “He knows how to please me in the bedroom.”  (That sounds like what Gabi wants on “Days of our Lives”, yesterday.)  Travis’s wife said that Travis, a nurse, was “the best dad possible” and that he fulfilled the mission to “Provide, Profess, and Protect”.  I’d have trouble with the last of these. 
  
The men, who came in “good clothes”, were then asked to show what they had, or didn’t have (well, except for one true thing).  At least the men could help themselves, and didn’t need their wives to “do them”.   I was a little surprised to see that “smooth” (or “thmooth”) rules in the heterosexual world.  Don’t women want men to look as different from women as possible?  I guess not.  My “buddies” back in the barracks at Ft. Eustin VA in 1969 should have gotten in a time machine to see this – most of all, “The Walrus”, and “Rado Suhl”. 

Steve Harvey could ask for the women’s point of view. What about swimmers and bikers?
  
Or try this one. YouTube can make any "trend" look widespread.  Ashton Kutcher had weighed in on this issue after he was forced to go baby for the film "The Killers" to match a stuntman. 
     
Steve Harvey’s show isn’t the only guilty party.  Billy Bush talked about his chest on Access Hollywood at the end of the show today.  Please don’t show us.
  
Back in the old days, September was the month for “tribunals”.  

Update: Sept. 13

Harvey had another show on what women want, which now includes shined shoes, ironed shirts, and sometimes bow ties/  I never knew that shoes matter. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

On "Days of our Lives", Gabi turns on Will and Sonny for denying her what every woman needs; Sonny "gets it" off camera

There was a conversation on NBC’s “Days of our Lives” today (Tuesday) that caught my ear. 
     
Recall that Gabi had her marriage annulled with Nick, but Nick and Gabi have been giving hints of getting back together.  Will and Sonny don’t want Nick around the apartment and Will and Gabi’s baby. Will says he has to protect his daughter because Nick earlier had tried to blackmail and threaten Will.

And Gabi suddenly resents Sonny’s intrusions into her life.  Gabi said today, she wants someone to hold her, to love her when she feels down, what any woman wants. “I want sex” she said.

It struck me as curious to hear a female character saying she is entitled to be loved.  Remember, she had the rival character Melanie kidnapped to get the attention of Chad. 

But Will didn’t know anything about this when he had a one night stand with Gabi.  Still, why did a gay character do this?  Did that make sense?

The other thing is that Sonny’s (Freddie Smith) appearance has, well, been, shall we say, “refined”.  Maybe there was a scene with Will (Chandler Massey) they didn’t show. 

There’s a “Live Journal” for Will and Sonny, here.  

Picture: The 3 Musketeers and d'Artagnan, but no "milady" (Gabi).

Update Tuesday, Stefano says a horrific line to Rafe (barely starting physical therapy in the hospital): "What's the point of living if you're never going to be a real man again?"

Sunday, September 01, 2013

ABC "Secret Millionaire" helps the refugees from the BP oil spill on the Alabama coast; why hasn't BP been held more accountable?

ABC resumed “Secret Millionaire” on Sunday September 1, 2013, with an episode that seemed to put more emphasis on giving time, mixing with real people and doing grunt work than did previous episodes.

Wing Lam, cofounder of Wahoo’s Fish Taco in Newport Beach CA (with restaurant chain),  settles secretly for a week in Mobile AL, living in a rundown mobile home, and looks like a “hippy” with long hair.  I didn’t know that Mobile has office towers that resemble Cleveland’s.  Mobile’s Gulf coastal economy is still in tatters from the BP oil spill in April 2010.  It sounds as though residents and small businesses each got only $5000 as a settlement for their lost income, which could hardly recover them.
   
Lam volunteers at a homeless shelter, packing food, and then for a fisherman and clammer, stringing nets

ABC offers a “Get Involved” link at the show site, and I don’t recall seeing before.  I don’t have spare hours to give away to organizations and groups randomly like this; anything I do has to “help the pieces fit.”  The link is here. I wrote about this on the main “BillBoushka” blog Aug. 25, 2013. 
  
Lam makes the comment that the line between rich and poor is narrower and more a matter of luck than insular people (typical everywhere in cities and suburbs, with the "winners" and "losers" mentality) want to admit. 

But why hasn’t BP been forced to make the community whole?  Really, why should this be up to volunteers who "grab a hammer"?  Why wasn't BP (and "Tony") forced to make the people completely whole before "charity" was called for? The "System" failed these people, so it becomes up to us individually.
   
Remember Tony Heyward, and “I want my life back”?  So do these people. 
   
At the end, he does a $50000 donation to the homeless shelter, some to the fisherman, and some to people to build new homes.