Friday, November 29, 2013

Bourdain in Spain (he needs to go to the Basque area)

CNN has been rerunning its “Parts Unknown” Season 2 from Anthony Bourdain all weekend, but I wanted to mention especially the “Spain” program.

Most of it takes places in the southern part of the country, in Granada, where he can cover bullfighting, Easter parades, and the opportunity to get “free” tapas with beer. (I’m not much for eating sea snails right out of their shells.)   He talks about the “lifestyle” of living in a beautiful place, filled with historical contradictions, not the least of which is the fall of Islam from cultural supremacy on the days of Cordoba.  He doesn’t get into the politics of separatism, and the different autonomous regions (including Basque, and Catalan).  But he does say that he is so busy in the southern area of the country he left out Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian.

He would do well to consider the Basque area next season.  Bilbao is a strange place – I spent two days there at the end of April 2001 (to see the Guggenheim), and part of one of the James Bond films was made there.  It’s off the railroad – it’s a 60-mile bus ride through mountains to get there.  When I arrived there was a marathon being run downtown.  Actually, there is a special Basque railroad to Sam Sebastian, with its famous beach and film festival.  And the Basque language and food are like no other. 
  
Bourdain’s link is here

Bourdain in Spain, like the rain, stays mainly in the plain. (Actually, he doesn't; he likes coastal mountains on the Mediterranean; but then try the Basque coast!)
  
Bourdain also managed to make Japan look like a set for a sci-fi movie (maybe the futuristic dystopia in “Cloud Atlas”). 
   
Wikipedia Sam Sebastian picture link

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Celebrities volunteer to serve the homeless at Los Angeles mission; "Days of our Lives" and screenwriting classes

On Thanksgiving afternoon, CNN and CBS are reporting that celebrities are cooking and serving meals for the homeless on skid row at the “Mission” in south Los Angeles.  Dick Van Dyke was reported to be present. Bella Thorne, NeaL Patrick Harris, Blair Underwood and Ryan Beatty were also present. The CBS video link is here (the embed doesn't work). 

Celebrity chec Ben Ford has this video.
  
The Atlantic Wire reports that’s Thanksgiving Day is flush with volunteers, especially since volunteering provides photo ops and more roles; the real need is for the rest of the year, story here

“Days of our Lives” is off Thursday (for a Dog Show) and Friday (for a hockey game on Black Friday), but the episodes this week show how screenwriters teach the design of cliffhangers.  Gabi hits Nick on the head after he suddenly attacks her in the woods after she challenges him about arranging a phony modeling job in New York that would take her away from Will and Sonny and the baby.  Sami and “Hurricane Katrina” stumble on her, and arrange to dispose of Nick’s body, but as they dump him into the river, Nick comes to life and swims away.  So now we know that Nick is out there, and Gabi, Sami and Kate will get caught.  Do we care about the characters?  The hook is still there for next week. Okay, Will and Sonny have become the heroes (Sonny – Freddie Smith – seems to be the most responsible male person in the soap – and his appearance can change, if you care to notice); but Nick used to be a likable character until they made him turn evil (almost do a psychotic Andrew Holmes personality change, which I’ve never seen happen in my own life).  There’s an interview with actor Blake Berris here

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PBS: "A More Perfect Union" from "The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross"

On Tuesday, November 26, 2013, PBS presented Episode 6 of “The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”, namely “A More Perfect Union, From Black Power to Black President”, 1968-2013, primary link here. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the host and narrator. 
  
The episode started with the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King in 1968.  I was in Basic Combat Training at Ft. Jackson, SC at the time. We were on “Red Alert” as if a show of force in downtown Columbia SC could mean anything.  I recall hearing reports of problems in Orangeburg, but the major cities exploded, especially Newark and Detroit (helping explain the decline of the Motor City).  In Washington DC, upper 14th Street rioted, only to become gentrified and repaired decades later (around the U Street corridor today).  Similar problems occurred in Los Angeles.

Historians claim that society became more polarized under Johnson (and then Nixon) than it would have under JFK, despite Johnson’s pushing of the Civil Right’s Act.  Generally, groups like the Black Panthers formed, and local neighborhoods learned to police themselves.  Tensions may have quieted some, but economic recession in the old rust belt set in the 1970s and did not improve that much for black America in the 1980s under Reagan, although in upper income levels minority owned businesses sometimes got preferences in getting government business  (I interviewed for a job with one of them in 1988). In 1991, the notorious beating of Rodney King occurred.

      
The later part of the hour covers the rise of Barack Obama, with the help of Oprah Winfrey. 


 Wikipedia attribution link for second picture, near Montgomery AL, here

Third picture is Philadelphia, MS, which I visited in 1985 while living in Dallas.  This is the Wikpedia ;picture  it looked pretty much like this (but in April the leaves were out).  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BBC: "Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure", with Fiona Bruce, airs on PBS

PBS (WETA 26) in Washington DC aired a 2011 50 minute documentary, “Da Vinci: The Lost Treasure”, in which Fiona Bruce visited the cities in which Leonardo Da Vinci worked (mostly Florence and Milan) and presented the attempts to restore some of his old paintings.
  
Bruce did go into the stories that Da Vinci was homosexual, and was  arrested on a handwritten tip once in Florence (the charges would be dropped).  Later he had a lifelong companion.  Some of his art work showed an aesthetic interest in the male face, hair, dress, and swagger.
  
  
The film originally was produced by the BBC, link here

In 2005, the History Channel had offered two films, “Da Vinci and the Code He Lived By” (120 min) and “Understanding the Da Vinci Code”,  which accompanied Dan Brown’s book and high-profile film from Columbia in 2007, “The Da Vinci Code”. 
  
Leonardo Da Vinci and Alan Turing seem to be among the most important gay male historical figures, when it comes to technological innovation.  Da Vinci did see himself as a “renaissance man”.

  
Wikipedia attribution link for Da Vinci’s “The Virtuous Man”. 

"Blacklist": Anslo Garrick sets up another villain to "lose it"

I may not have followed all the intricacies of “The Blacklist”, but last night’s “torture porn” episode looked like something right out of the “Saw” or “Hostel” series. 
  
Red (James Spader) winds up locked up inside (deeply) some black ops facility with a nemesis Ressler (Diego Kalttenhoff), who has gotten a really awful gunshot wound in the femur, maybe more than one.  All of this has been setup with the help of another villain on the blacklist, Anslo Garrick (the episode is called “Anslo Garrick Part I”, played by Ritchie Coster.  There is all this talk about “hearing your screams”, but soon Red is performing hi sown surgery on Diego. He transfuses some of his own HIV-negative blood (it’s like a battlefield transfusion), and then treats the gross wound with various caustic chemicals and cauterizing irons to destroy the infection.  Diego looks young enough to be in summer, maybe in his 20s still (the actor is 34), but his leg will become an old man’s after this episode.  Too bad that he had to lose it.
  
  
On my “cf” blog (diisasters) I covered a couple of other episodes (the subway threat, and the financial system collapse with counterfeit Monopoly money).
   
Apparently the Fall Finale happens Monday December 2.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

History: "JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide" nixes the conspiracy theories

This weekend, the History Channel, as part of its 50th Anniversary commemoration, aired the “JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide”, a two hour documentary that summarized all the conspiracy theories.
   
The most popular theory with the public is that the act was engineered by the Mafia. The second most popular is that it was planned by the extreme right wing, the military industrial complex, and the CIA. The third is that was ordered by other elements of the US government, possibly by LBJ, but this would merge with the second theory. There are even some fringe theories that it was ordered to cover up UFO landings by aliens.
  
The documentary looked at the eyewitness accounts that insisted that there were more than three shots, but said that the echo chamber effect could have explained that observation. The idea that Kennedy would not have thrust back if a shot was fired from behind does not stand up to more careful analysis.  The “magic bullet” theory has regained more credibility than it used to have.
So we have a book by Jesse Ventura (Books blog, Nov. 7) giving many items of circumstantial evidence pointing to too many possible theories to be believed.  But most of them don’t stand up to really hard evidence
  .
I think I have the Warren Commission summary around somewhere.  I haven’t looked at it in a long time.
      
The most testing moment may have been just as the event started.  It still seems incredible that security was so lax, and that Oswald could build a sniper’s nest in almost plain sight.   


Saturday, November 23, 2013

History: "Oswald: 48 Hours to Live" as part of "JFK: 50 Years Later" series

The History Channel has some episodes in its “JFK: 50 Years Later” series. 
  
The most detailed may be “Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live”.  Kennedy died at 1 PM on Nov. 22, and Oswald died officially at 1:07 PM Nov. 24.  The documentary (based on a book by Steven M. Gillon by the same name) traces the police interrogation of Oswald, and then the exact details of Jack Ruby’s shooting him Sunday shortly before noon as he was being transferred out of the Dallas city jail.
   
One detail that us particularly interesting is that one of Ruby’s workers had called and asked for money for rent, since Ruby had temporarily closed his clubs after the assassination.  He went over to Western Union to wire the money, and then walked into the police station.  He just happened to arrive at the right time to shoot Oswald.  Had the transfer taken longer, he would have missed the “opportunity” and Oswald would have lived to be tried for both the murders of J.D. Tippit and Kennedy. This idea contradicts the idea that Ruby was ordered to do a hit for the Mafia.
  
Ruby, however, did have to appease the Mafia, which controlled the “illegal” stripper’s “Union” to run his business. 
  
And why did Ruby put the pistol in his pocket before going to Western Union and then the police station.  Did he premeditate the idea that he might have an opportunity against Oswald? 

The documentary says that he expected to be lauded as a national hero rather than get a death sentence in a few months.  He would die of cancer. 

The film discusses the eyewitnesses to Tippit's shooting, including Helen Markham, Domingo Benavides and William Scoggins.   
   
The video link is here


NBC and Brokaw host "Where Were You? The Day JFK Died"

Where Were You?  The Day that JFK Died” with Tom Brokaw, was aired Friday Nov. 22 as a two-hour documentary from NBC Dateline.
  
Brokaw interviews many “average people” still living 50 years later, now seniors, about what they saw.  Included is the woman who saw Officer J.D. Tippit get shot.  Another man was in the Texas Theater watching “War Is Hell” (or "Cry of Battle") and saw the fight in the theater before he was subdued and arrested. Oswald tried to shoot another police officer inside the theater, according to an eyewitness.


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I was at work, at the National Bureau of Standards, in the old Federal City College campus (now the UDC) at Connecticut Ave. and Van Ness Streets in Washington DC.  I worked in an oil rheology laboratory, my first wage-paying job ever.  I was 20 years old.  I happened to be at my desk, glancing to my left at the air conditioning unit, the other side of the room from the oil calibration chambers and air ducts, when my boss came into the room and said that the president had been shot.  He turned on a radio.  The announcement that the president was dead, made very bluntly by Cronkite, would occur in about twenty minutes.  So I must have learned about it around 2:15 PM EST.  We were immediately dismissed from work, and I took the usual bus back to K Street where I would transfer to my parents’ home in Arlington – long before there was a Metro.  I remember waiting for the 2T bus on the special  service island and wondering suddenly if a nuclear attack could come.  That image would stay with me for a long time any time I took this bus along this unusually constructed street.

Lyndon Johnson would later say he didn’t know at first if World War III was coming.

But the initial information about Oswald made him look like a mentally ill misfit, but the history of travel to Russia, the wife, and Jack Ruby’s slaying of him in the police station Sunday quickly led to rumors about a Communist or Mafia plot.  The lack of an automobile to pick up Oswald and drive him away is said in the documentary to argue against this idea. 

Oliver Stone is interviewed, and suggests a right-wing plot that wanted expanded war in Vietnam.  But others suggest that Oswald would have obviously made a very unreliable recruit into a conspiracy.
Brokaw interviews Sonny Jurgensen about the refusal of the NFL to cancel games that weekend. 
   
Brokaw suggests that Kennedy did not have Civil Rights at the top of his agenda until the broadcast media started covering it. 

But he also shows an interview where Kennedy, when asked if he believes in the Domino Theory, says, “I do”, and that supports the idea that Kennedy might have been hawkish in Vietnam as was LBJ. But many conspiracy theorists claim that Kennedy would have pulled out and denied the right wing military industrial complex its war, leading to 50000 US combat deaths in Vietnam and divisiveness over the draft and student deferments.

The documentary shows that 800,000 visited the Kennedy memorial Monday Nov. 25.  My parents and I stayed home in Arlington.  I think that classes at GWU did resume Monday. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Networks honor Kennedy only briefly today; Chris Pratt appears on Jimmy Kimmel; recollections of "Everwood" and "The O.C."

Today, Friday, November 22, 2013, the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination occurred on the same day of the week as the original event.
  
NBC interrupted “Days of our Lives” at 1:20, with some commentary, a moment of silence at 1:25, a brief eulogy by the president of the Dallas Morning News, and a hymn by the Naval Academy Chorus. Programming resumed at 1:30.

It would have been more appropriate to cancel regular programming Friday afternoon (pushing episodes to Monday) and spend the afternoon on commemoration.

Late Thursday night, Minnesota-born actor Chris Pratt appeared on Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, about his role on “Delivery Man” with Vince Vaughn, a comedy about a man whose sperm father over 500 children. Pratt was in “Moneyball” and “Zero Dark Thirty”. 

Pratt talked about the “fertility” issue, and also talked about babysitting as a make, an occasion where a kid climbed into the oven.  No one turned it on, but that sounds dangerous.

Pratt had played the teenage character “Bright” in the WB drama “Everwood” 2002-2006. Bright was the son of a doctor in the small town of Everwood, CO.  Bright’s sister befriends the piano prodigy Ephram (Gregory Smith), whose father Andy Brown is the new doctor in town played by Treat Williams, who has moved his family there after losing his wife to an accident in New York.  There is another character, Colin (Mike Erwin) who is seriously injured in a car accident caused by Bright, which is kept hidden for many episodes.  When Brown tries to save Colin in surgery, Colin dies, setting up a major plot thread.

"Everwood" was one of my favorite series ever.  It was too bad to see Eprham's career fall apart after the affair with Madison because Andy lied to him.  
   
Pratt also played a role in “The O.C.” (2006-2007); I remember one episode where he goes on a “nighthike” with the lead character played by Adam Brody.
  
I met Chris Pratt and Gregory Smith in person at a fan party at the King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia in August, 2005.  They both signed a poster, and Gregory addressed me as “EFF” in signing it, referring to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  I was able to give a quick presentation on my role in overcoming the “don’t ask don’ tell” policy for gays in the military as well as COPA, the Child Online Protection Act of 1998, which had been a threat to online free speech. 
 


Pratt, now 34, appears to have gained weight, at least from appearances.  Some actors, as we know (like Matthew McGonaughey and Tom Hanks) gain and lose weight for roles, or allow alterations (like Jared Leto’s role in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” or the tattooing of Ryan Gosling for “The Place Beyond the Pines” – O hope that was done with temporary ink.  Gregory Smith, 30, appears to be doing well acting in and directing “Rookie Blue”.  My favorite film of his is “Kids in America” (2005).  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NBC "Revolution": the point is more mired in fantasy than we had thought

NBC’s “Revolution” was supposed to have its Fall Finale tonight and explain everything, in an episode called “Everyone Says I Love You.” 
  
What we learn is how Aaron (Zak Orth) controls nanites with his mind, by creating an imaginary playmate (Aidan Sussman) who becomes an “AI” being and does Aaron’s bidding at thought.  The boy has become a conscious being, but can be ordered to do Aaron’s bidding.  So at least the outlines of the “Revolution” take shape.  Radical interests apparently stole some of Aaron’s code, to create a world that they could control completely through the nanites, even through “telepathy”.  The concept is somewhat that of fantasy, as if one thought he could manipulate a world of desirable people merely through thought and fantasy.  On the other hand, “real people” have been forced back into a subsistence 19th Century existence, ruled by warlords, militia and doomsday preppers.  At least the steam engine trains reasonably well.   
  
Miles (Billy Burke) seems to have a flesh-eating bacteria destroying his arm, and Horn insists that Aaron use his powers to cure his brain tumor. 
   

The concept of “Revolution” seems to be more subtle than a lot of us had just thought.  It isn’t just a Luddite purification. Apparently there will be two more episodes in December.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

NBC Dateline: "The Wrong Man": the story of Ryan Ferguson and his wrongful conviction in Missouri based on flimsy "dreams" and "eyewitness" testimony without physical evidence

On Friday Nov. 15, 2013, NBC Dateline aired an episode   “The Wrong Man” , is a story about the unjust conviction of Ryan Ferguson in Missouri, with Keith Morrison reporting.  I have already discussed the case, and his release from prison after the overturning of his conviction for the murder of sports editor Kent Heitholt  and the CBS “48 Hours” episodes on his case on the Issues blog, Nov. 14, 2013.
  

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The case had started when Ferguson and Erickson got into a college bar underage.  Erickson had trouble remembering the night, and when the story about a robbery and killing of the editor in town surfaced two years later, Erickson started to dream that he had done it and told police.  Prosecutors got momentum, and became overzealous to get a conviction.  There is a discussion on “Criminal Justice School” as to how people sometimes make false confessions and believe they have committed crimes they actually didn’t commit, here
  
Ryan describes his surprise at Erickson’s bringing up the crime two years afterward, when a reporter did a story on it, and then his own sudden arrest after being followed home.  
  
The heart of the episode concerned the pro bono legal work of Kathleen Zellner, finally getting an appeals court to overturn the conviction and to get the DA agree not to retry the case.

The broadcast shows the original trial, including the testimony of the janitor, as well as Ferguson’s straightforward denials.

What’s obviously striking about the case now is the need for Ferguson’s forgiveness of Erickson, and of the system for taking away 9 years of Ryan’s life “for no reason”.  Also noteworthy is the Ferguson’s father’s determination in the case. Finally, Zelllner realized that probably Erickson had also not been present at the scene, and the Datelines report made it look probable that his guilty plea would eventually be overturned.  Hollywood Reporter has a detailed story here.  

Would this story make a good documentary independent movie?  I think so.

The Innocence Project has an account here
    
See also “The Exonerated” on July 23, 2012 on this blog.
  

The actual picture for this story is in Herrington, KS (mine, 2006).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lady Gaga hosts SNL; the show as all about her clothes

Lady Gaga hosted Saturday Night Live on Saturday night, Nov. 16.  I don’t know whether many bars and discos broadcast this, since she is so popular in the gay community.
   
As usual, the experience was sartorial. Rather than a lot of direct comedy, Gaga performed, often decked in a variety of costumes as if out of “Once Upon a Time”.  The NBC link for the broadcast is here.

Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and is known as much as a businesswoman (sort of along the lines of Aston Kutcher) as many other things.   She pretty much adhere’s to “A+K”;s idea that it pays to be smart. 
  

She was born and raised in New York City and much of her early career started in the East Village.
   
It seems that on SNL you can be a “host” and a “musical guest”.  Not everyone is expected to act in comedy skits when they can sing and perform musical numbers.  Not that many potential hosts can really do both. 

But there's plenty for any young comedy prios to write skits about:  Obamacare, piracy, NSA surveillance, Russia's bizarre anti-gay law in the face of the upcoming Winter Olympics. . 
   
I’m told that if you want to go, you have to get in line for tickets at 30 Rock at 9 AM on Saturday morning of the performance.  Does anyone know differently? 
   
I worked for NBC at that address as a mainframe computer programmer 1974-1977. 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

NBC -Washington presents "Audi Best Buddies Challenge"

On Saturday, November 16, 2013, at 10:30 AM EST, NBC Washington (that is Channel 4, or NBC4, in the Washington DC area) aired a 30-minute account of an Oct. 19, 2013 bicycle race fundraiser called the “Audi Best Buddies Challenge”, with the report of the story here.  The link for the organization is here.
   
The charity raises money for a buddy program which encourages adults to become buddies of people with certain learning disabilities, including Downs and Williams Syndromes, Fragile X Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum. 

Doreer Genzler hosted.  Actor Kevin Spacey appeared, and made the odd comment that those of us who have “done well in our own lives should send the elevator back down” and also said “how easy it is to box people in.” 

One of the founders of the program is Anthony Kennedy Shriver.  I’m not sure of the exact family relationship with Maria Shriver, who produced an HBO series on Alzheimer’s in 2009 (see this blog, May 10, 2009). 

The report and show may well speak for themselves.  So does the following video from the organization.

    
When I worked as a substitute teacher, I “unintentionally” wound up in special education a few times, and a very few of the assignments were for the severely disabled.  But it would not have been easy to “befriend” anyone in some of these classes;  they were usually very uncommunicative or sometimes made inappropriate moves.  On the other hand, consider the fact that to make the movie “Girlfriend” director Justin Lerner worked with an actor with Down’s Syndrome (July 16, 2012). 

This challenge will not be for everyone. 

ABC 20-20: "Home Sweet Home: notes about abusive landlords, accidental demolition, sinkholes, and a warning about hoarding

ABC 20-20’s “Home Sweet Home” episode Friday night contained several disturbing anecdotes.
One was a story of a married couple in San Francisco who terrorized tenants to force them to leave, because they wanted to flip houses.    This all happened before the 2008 housing collapse.  The couple fled to Italy and had to be extradited to be prosecuted for theft of tenants’ belonging and other charges.

A more relevant story for most people concerns homes being demolished by mistake.  A couple is fighting with the Fort Worth, TX city council after the city ordered the demolition of the wrong house, on a lake.  In Arkansas, a demolition contractor simply got an address wrong.  In that case, the city and contractor are pointing fingers and leaving the homeowner in the cold.  The homeowner may not have the resources to litigate against the contractor.  One question would be, what happens with homeowners insurance. 


  
The show went on to cover the epidemic of sinkholes in the Tampa FL area, interviewing a couple noticing cracks in its home, and showing another neighborhood evacuated after a sinkhole swallowed one home.  Barbara Cochrane spoke about the effect on home values.  Homeowners are spending up to $50000 to have spaces under their homes filled with concrete.
   
The last segment showed an entrepreneur who specializes in cleaning up the homes of hoarders in Orange County, CA.  The segment mentioned that the county can condemn a home for hoarding and order the homeowner to sell and/or leave within thirty days, with the dreaded “red sign”.  Hoarding cases have been covered before on TLC. Keeping house can take a lot of manual labor and time, as my own mother showed for years. 


Friday, November 15, 2013

CNN: "The Assassination of President Kennedy" from "The Sixties" series, has lots of original news footage

On Thursday, November 14, 2013, CNN premiered its documentary from Playtone, “The Assassination of President Kennedy”, two hours, from its series “The Sixties”.

The documentary featured an enormous amount of original news footage, including the Zapruder Film, but also all the immediate coverage in black and white, especially the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in the Dallas Police station at 11:20 AM CST on November 24.  I recall being in the back seat of the family car with my parents, leaving church, going down 17th St in Washington DC, about to turn onto I  St, when that murder happened in real time.  I remember hearing the shot over the radio and the words “He’s been shot.”
   
The documentary looks at the evidence closely, from the Warren Commission, and doesn’t find anything that could not be explained by the lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
I lived in Dallas throughout the 1980s, so it’s interesting to me to see how people behaved in the early 60s, with the clunky suits and ties, and chain smoking, and country-like way of talking.
   
The best reference on CNN right now seems to be some commentary by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman (executive producers), link here
  
    

This documentary really recreates the event more than others I have seen.  

The last twenty minutes talks about Jim Garrison and Clay Shaw, as covered in Oliver Stone's film, and even covers the rumors that homosexuality had something to do with the plot (as in the film).  It's pretty silly stuff now, post Stonewall.  I remember comments in newspapers that Jack Ruby always took the "female position" (bottom) in sex.  Yes, the papers really said that in 1964.  
   
Picture: DART train, in north Dallas, near I-635, Nov. 2011 (my picture)


Update: June 13, 2014

CNN re-aired this documentary on June 12 (both hours) and will do so several times in the near future.  This time, the impression seems to be that such an insignificant failure of a man could change world history, just one hour after the Cuban Missile Crisis. . 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

PBS Nova: "Cold Case, JFK": maybe Oswald really did act alone, according to modern forensics

PBS Nova’s “Cold Case: JFK” aired on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at 9 PM EST.  The documentary looks at the forensic evidence with modern technology to see if there is convincing evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald may not have acted alone.

On my Books blog, Nov. 7, I reviewed Jesse Ventura’s new book, which lists practically every possible item of circumstantial evidence showing that Oswald could not have acted alone.
  
However, the PBS documentary of rifle marksmanship and bullet behavior laboratory experiments does not support the idea of other shooters.  First, the film points out that Oswald used a slow, inexpensive Italian rifle, whose bullets still are quite resilient. 
  
The team fired a bullet through many blocks of pine wood, and showed that the bullet could come through relatively unscathed, but when the bullet exits harder material into the air, it starts to tumble or yawl.  This is consistent with the evidence from the second shot, which reportedly went through President Kennedy’s neck and then John Connally’s wrist and lodged in his thigh. (The first shot may have missed.)  The third shot, which seems to be the one that blew up JFK’s head, is controversial because Kennedy’s head thrust back, as if shot from the front, or the Grassy Knoll.  But in fact, forensics shows that the bullet would have tumbled and changed course (yawled and angled upward) in JFK’s brain tissue, and that his turning back could have been the result of an autonomous central nervous system reaction. 
     
The documentary ends with the remark that history was changed because of the actions of a “nobody”.

It is still amazing to me that, even in 1963, security was so lax along the route. 

The PBS link is here.  

    

The film may disappoint those conspiracy theorists who want to read more evil into the “military-industrial complex”.  

Picture: downtown Dallas, my own picture, 2011.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

AC360 reports from the typhoon ravaged Tacloban, Philippines; how do journalists live in disaster zones?

Tuesday night, November 12, 2013 Anderson Cooper conducted a detailed broadcast from Tacloban City, on the east side of the Philippines, on his AC360 Later program, showing all the devastation. I wondered how journalists take care of their own creature comfort needs when traveling in disaster areas, which Cooper has done throughout his career.  The link for the broadcast is here
  
Cooper was in East Texas, wading in a flood from Hurricane Rita on September 14, 2008, one day before the Financial Crisis of 2008 would break loose. 
  
One visitor was critical of journalists and bloggers who report but don’t actually work, challenging both me and Anderson to “grab a hammer” in a comment to a posting about Hurricane Katrina here Aug. 29, 2007.
     
Nancy Snyderman of NBC visited the nearby town of even more devastated, as she reported on civilian doctors who had volunteered to come from Mexico through Hong Kong, and were brought by C130 transport.  The atmosphere seems like “survival of the fittest” as a Marine general said “we have a week” to save most of the lives.  

Update: Nov. 15

CNN and AC360 continue coverage, with one incident where a woman worked a respirator by hand for her husband because the hospital in Tacloban did not yet have power.

Friday, Anderson answered critics about his coverage, from Korina Sanchez and Benigo Aquino, who maintained was "political", link here. He was accused to saying that the Filipino government had not shown up when in fact he had not said that.

Anderson has also recently commented on Alec Baldwin's anti-gay slurs, according to a USA Today story here. Baldwin should be ashamed; such comments don't cut it anymore. Apparently MSNBC suspended Baldwin for two weeks, ABC story here.

CNN also covered Matt Damon's recent work on clean water in Africa, with another interview today.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Anthony Bourdain wraps up "Parts Unknown" with "Detroit" (and then Vegas)

Anthony Bourdain concluded his second season of “Parts Unknown” in Detroit (except for his jamboree in downtown Las Vegas, following the show). The main link for the episode is here

Bourdain portrayed Detroit, built into a major city in the ‘40s and ‘50s when the auto industry boomed, as having been viewed at one time as a “new Rome”.  It fell into ruins after racism, segregation, and unions drove companies out of the City and to some extent out of Michigan. But I recall that Detroit was seen as a prosperous place in the mid '60s, until the sudden riots of 1967.
   
Bourdain did show the new settlers, entrepreneurs who build interesting businesses (like film), and ate at a seafood restaurant where everyone who worked there lived in the city. Some of the restaurants aren't quite "legal" but are run out of homes as "poupusas".  
  
The empty green zones in the city are gradually becoming local farms, with vegetables grown for local consumption, since chain stores have left.  Ironically, this sounds like the sustainable living preached by pundits. 

  
Yet the documentary was filled with images of abandoned homes and factories.  A fire department company was populated with apparent volunteers who bought everything themselves and shared cooking duties.  Police coverage in many areas is spotty. 
  
There is a lot of criticism of the episode.  The Detroit Free Press asks if this is “ruin porn”, link 
  
I visited the city myself in August, 2012, mainly downtown, and along Seven Mile Road, and the freeways.  I recall having a Seventh Grade physical education teacher (back in the 1950s) who bragged about being from Detroit, and the Tigers.  That team went from 43 wins in 2003 to consistent appearance in baseball playoffs, and seems to be Detroit's bright spot.  Detroit's Comerica Park was the setting of an incident in the ABC series "Flash Forward".  .

Jimmy Kimmel's "joke" about people in China leads to protests, calls for ABC to fire him

Protestors have demonstrated at ABC studios in Burbank, Houston and Phoenix to demand the firing of Jimmy Kimmel for a skit on Oct. 16 offensive to Chinese.  Yahoo TV has a typical story here.   The comment was made by a “child” in response to how the US can repay its debt to China, a subject that came up with great seriousness in the recent debt ceiling debacle in Congress.
   
There is a “We the People” petition regarding Kimmel, which the White House says it can respond to when it reaches 100,000 signatures.  The link is here.  Ironically, the petitions facility had been suspended during the recent government shutdown.

Kimmel has reportedly apologized to protesters. 

Was this remark just hyperbole?  This sounds like joking about the title of a children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, which, if you think about it, could be taken as offensive.
  

I did not see the skit, although I often do watch Kimmel and typically enjoy his guests.  It seems as though it’s dangerous to perform as a stand-up comic now. 

The show comes from LA, and the site is here.  I don't see any mention of the fiasco on the site.


Update: Nov. 13, 2013

Jimmy Kimmel was examined for a makeover tonight, and he showed his bald leg, to brag about his "muscular calf".  How embarrassing.  Jimmy Kimmel has no shame. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NatGeo: special film "Killing Kennedy", slower than others on the 1963 Kennedy tragedy

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, the National Geographic Channel performed multiple airings of its special film “Killing Kennedy”, directed by Nelson McCormick.
  
This film seems to take the track that Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar) really was the only assassin, and was motivated by a desire to be seen as a “hero” by history.
   
The film shows Oswald’s 1959 trip to Russia, where authorities first rebuff him as na├»ve.
  
 He looks socially awkward at a dance in Minsk, but brings Marina (Michelle Tractenberg) back, were he has problems proving his manhood.  He targets a right wing general Walker and misses, and then burns the evidence in front of Marina,
  
The film shows a snapshot of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but doesn’t give enough detail to make it seem compelling.  
  
There are lightweight efforts by the FBI to investigate Oswald before Kennedy comes to Dallas.
   
The final sequence makes the assassination seem surprisingly amateurish, with Oswald carrying the oversized rifle around in brown paper.  Why was the security in all the building along the route so lax?
  
Rob Lowe does not seem as convincing to me as JFK as some other actors, but he is certainly earnest, as in the scene where he blames himself, in front of Jacqueline (Ginnifer Goodwin) for the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
  
  
The official site for the film is here
  
The assassination occurs 89 minutes into the film.  It portrays only three shots.  It shows Oswald getting out of the Texas Book Depository “because he works here.”
  
The film does show Mrs. Kennedy holding the president’s head. Later, she is shown smoking at the hospital, which surprised me. 
   
The dramatization of the shooting of Office Tippit in Oak Cliff is well done.  Oswald was completely unwired. The film ends with the shooting by Jack Ruby.

This seems like a surprisingly low-key film, compared to others.  

Thursday, November 07, 2013

President makes a "Scarlett O'Hara" apology on NBC, to Chuck Todd, exclusive, over individual policies canceled for Obamacare

I think there is a line in Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” where Rhett Butler lectures Scarlet O’Hara that saying “I’m sorry” isn’t always good enough.

But maybe it’s good enough for the president, who many believe knew for months that many individual policies would not be renewed because they won’t meet the coverage requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

So Chuck Todd got the exclusive interview with President Obama where the President apologizes but insists that most Americans will be able to find better prices on the exchanges than they have so far.
  


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Ruth Marcus gives us an anecdote of the sort of person who will be better off under Obama's plan even if he "loses" coverage now, in her piece Nov. 8 about a "sturdier safety net" here.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

NBC Today will show two hosts undergoing prostate screening; ABC The View and CBS 60 Minutes report on teenager's promising cancer protein test

Matt Lauer and Al Roker will have prostate exams live on the NBC Today show on Thursday Nov. 7, according to a report on (competing) ABC show “The View” this morning (November 6).  The NBC Today story link and details are here.
  
The other male cast members are apparently letting facial hair grow gray, to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer, men’s health issues.  But this doesn’t seem to be a “Be Brave and Shave” exercise as a fundraiser.
   
A PBS film that I reviewed on the Movies blog yesterday (“Money and Medicine”) raises questions as to whether many prostate biopsies (based on PSA screening and probably digital exams) are necessary, and particularly whether treatment (most of all, surgery) is necessary, because significant side effects (incontinence and impotence) often occur, for a tumor that may not become significant for thirty years.  A few clinical subtypes of prostate tumor are aggressive, however.  Benign prostate enlargement, leading to more frequent urination at night, is common in older men.  Aggressive prostate treatment (as with breast cancer treatment) is easier to contemplate for people with strong marriages and family support; for people with weaker social capital, the side effects may outweigh the actual risk of malignant spread.  Such aggressive screening and treatment was not done or thought about when I was growing up.   
   
Later on “The View” today. 16-year-old Jack Andraka, from the Annapolis, MD area, appeared, and explained his invention of a chemical test for a protein related to early stages of pancreatic carcinoma..  CBS 60 Minutes has an embed from Oct. 13, 2013.  The CBS story (produced by Katy Textor) shows how he did the research at a Johns Hopkins University lab in Baltimore under a professor. There is an anecdote that he and his brother attracted the attraction of the FBI with Internet purchases of chemicals that can be used to make explosives.  That sounds like a variation on the "NSA metadata spying" scandal.
  
   

There's another account of the CBS report on Andraka on Blogger here.  I did have my annual medical Medicare appointment (by coincidence, in the Virginia Hospital Center complex in Arlington this morning right after seeing Lauer and Roker on the Today show.  The doctor says that Andraka's protein marker test is similar in concept to a PSA test and should take 2-3 years to get FDA approval.  It's unclear which companies are going to work on it first.  But it is considered big news.

Wikipedia attribution link for medical diagram. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

PBS: "The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross", "Into the Fire" and "The Age of Slavery"

PBS has been airing a series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”, with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The episode Nov. 5 was a hurried history of the War Between the States and Reconstruction, called “Into the Fire” (1861-1896).  The early part of the episode described the escape of slaves, some of whom would be sheltered as “contraband of war” at Ft. Monroe in Tidewater VA.  Later, Confederate forces would execute black Union troops on site, unwilling to call them “soldiers”.

The series then explains the term “40 Acres and a Mule”, the name of Spike Lee’s movie production company.
  
Southern society was faced with the feeling that what it used to have had been expropriated, and tended to believe there could never be true equality.  One race or the other would win.  So some African Americans preferred segregated living as “safer”, particularly with one bayou community in Mississippi. But segregation would be tested in “Plessy v. Ferguson” when a freeborn man who was only 1/8 black tried to ride in the white section of a train in Louisiana, and in 1896 the Supreme Court would uphold “separate but equal”, not to overturn it until 1954 (although even then, Brown v. Board of Education could be implemented only “with all deliberate speed”). 
  
The video below is a discussion of the series at the Brookings Institution.
  
   

The basic link for the episode is here

Update: Nov. 7

The episode "The Age of Slavery" aired on WHUT on Nov. 7.  The episode explained how slavery became intrinsic to the economy when a northerner, Eli Whitney, invented the cotton gin. creating the need for slave labor for the South on a huge scale.  Nachez MS became the nation's wealthiest town.  Slaveowners bred their own workforce with sexual intercourse, creating mixing.  In the north, blacks feared being called escaped slaves and kidnapped and being sent to the South.  In Delaware, one slave won freedom by getting a pastor to convince the owner that slavery was a sin. In Southampton, Suffolk County, VA, Nat Turner started a rebellion killing the entire family of owners.  A museum in South Carolina shows the tools used to hold slaves, often manufactured by the slaves.


Update: Dec. 7

I''l try to get to the site of the Turner Rebellion soon (but not during a Virginia ice storm this weekend).

There are a few buildings remaining in Courtland, VA, near the NC border. The town was at one time called "Jerusalem".  The Rebecca-Vaughan House, now restored, was the last home in which white plantation owners or the like were killed, Wikipedia link here.  Mahone's Tavern (wikipedia link) was a safe house for residents during the raid.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

ABC 20-20: Man finds out that he is not the true son of his parents, whose baby was stolen from a Chicago hospital in 1964

ABC 20-20 last night aired a half-century mystery of a man trying to learn who he is.  That is Paul Fronczak, who would find out that he was not his parents’ biological child, as the result of a kidnapping of a baby in 1964 from a hospital in Chicago.  He was brought home and his parents believed he was their real child for a long time.
   
The ABC link for the main story is here

The episode was called “Stolen at Birth: Who Is Paul Fronczak?”
   
The most interesting part of the story may be the way forensic artists, at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, VA, can predict what any person will look like as he or she ages.  Imagine a “perfect” 21 year old.  He will look aged and different by 30 (slightly), more so by 40, and substantially by 50.  Fronczak is now almost 50.  ABC also provided more artists to produce an age progress panel.
  
DNA tests show that he is not the real child.  Paul is trying to find the real child, over the objections of his parents.
      

I remember that time, shortly after LBJ had become president after the Kennedy assassination.  I was not a great era.  

Picture: Not quite Chixago; a bike trail near Sparta, WI, March, 2002.