Sunday, December 28, 2014

NBC "Meet the Press" talks about satire in media, and police profiling; Zakaria plans more discussion of brain mapping project and fusion power, today preempted by air crash


Chuck Todd interviewed NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who attributed many of the tensions in the City over the Garner death and then the assassination of two police officers in BedStuy, to labor contracts and politics, and to disparities in wealth in the City, and not to race. Todd showed a brief clipping from the Rodney King beating in 1991 in Los Angeles and summarized the history of that incident. Yet, other panelists admitted having conversations with their kids on how to act around police.  I recall a coworker telling me that back in the 1990s.  And some minority people, regardless of actual biology, simply look “whiter” than others, and that would even include the president.   On the other hand, many “whites” find out, if they do the DNA research, that they have ancestors who were slaves.  With the Latino community, similar ideas occur.  In Texas and California, many “Hispanics” are almost completely European in ancestry. (That idea occurs in my novel.)  Census treats Hispanic as an ethnicity, not as a race.
  
Then there was a discussion (including Tina Tey) of satire and politics, somewhat inspired by the fiasco over “The Interview”.  The “Washington operator” has become an anti-hero in film.  They got into the Bill Cosby fiasco (to which Don Lemon had recently allocated an hour on “CNN Tonight” and then mentioned that Chris Rock has suggested that audiences not be allowed to have cell phones at his performances, so he can take more risks.  I’ve actually been to a Chris Rock performance once, as a substitute teacher at a high school assembly back in 2007!
  
  
On CNN Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square was pre-empted, but his blog entry talks about mapping the human brain, and about fusion as a power source.  He also gives his take on Sony and “The Interview” here 

CNN has been covering the recent plane crash by an AirAsia airbus over the Java Sea, on the way to Singapore;  it seems to have been caused by violent weather near the Equator this December.  Meteorologists report that this December has been the stormiest ever, and might be related to climate change. 



Saturday, December 27, 2014

NBC airs "Tribute to our Troops" from Fort Benning, GA (by WWE free-style wrestling)


NBC tonight broadcast a WWE “freestyle wrestling” Tribute to our Troops, live from a huge arena in Fort Benning, GA (in Columbus, GA, on the Alabama border).  The event was heavily attended by men and women in fatigues from all services, but mostly the Army.   Fort Benning hosts the US Army Maneuver Center (eg, like the movie “War Games” (1983), sort of). 

The “Hulk” gave a rant, and there were a few right-wing personalities, before the usual show of blob bodies, something my father used to watch in the 1950s.
  
I passed through Fort Benning on a May 2012 trip.  There is an impressive memorial as you enter the post on a main public highway, but most of it is off limits to the public, so I have only a few superficial pictures.  I discovered that Fort Jackson, SC has a Basic Combat Training museum, but it can only be visited during the week with an appointment, worth doing some day.  Fort Gordon, GA (which in 1968 divided basic with Fort Jackson) now has a big NSA center.  I drove onto Fort Bragg once, in 1992.


Friday, December 26, 2014

NBC Dateline: "The Secrets of Cottonwood Creek"


NBC Dateline’s “The Secrets of Cottonwood Creek” Friday night told the story of who two juries hung on a murder trial in Colorado of Frederick Mueller for the 2008 death of his wife of 27 years after she fell into a creek on a winter hike.  Typical news story is here. When is a misstep really an accident?  This reminds me of an incident in John Knowles's novel and 1972 film "A Separate Peace", when a teen accidentally injures a rival, who dies later, by jousting a tree limb. 

  
The local sheriff believed that she had been pushed, based on his own interpretation of the lack of normal blows.  Fred would be arrested by Texas Rangers and brought back to Colorado.  After the first jury hung with 11-1 wanting to acquit, the judge dropped first degree murder chargers, but a second tril for second degree murder followed in Denver, in a different venue.  This time, more jurors wanted to convict.
  
The charges were dropped but the case remains open.  He would need to be acquitted to remove the "triple jeopardy."  The interviews with the thee adult kids, one of whom is in the Navy, were interesting. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Leadville view  I was there in 1973 and then 1994.  One scene in my novel happens there, as it is one of the highest towns in the US, over 10000 feet.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Now, "Days of our Lives" brings a hypothetical gay major league baseball pitcher into the lives of Will and Sonny


The NBC Corday soap “Days of our Lives” has perhaps made itself prescient, by bringing in the story of a gay major league baseball pitcher, Paul Narita (played by Christopher Sean Friel), as covered in “outsports” here, or here in Gay Star News, link. It seems that Sonny (Freddie Smith) dated him in the past, and Paul is trying to get back into Sonny’s life.  In the meantime, Sonny’s husband Will Horton I(Guy Wilson) has apparently returned from LA and is doing a story on Paul’s career.  Will even has eyes for him.  See the love triangle developing.  Paul looks to have mixed background, white, Asian and Latino. 
   
The script suggests that Paul had the best ERA in the Majors before hurting his shoulder, and that Salem has an MLB team.

In the meantime, racketeers are trying to extort Sonny, who secretly took money out of his joint account without his husband noticing or being told. 

I don’t know if I could go this far into marriage, but I was raised two generations ago.
   

Sonny looks so much more manly with his chest and arm hair back, but he seems to lose it anytime he has to be in an intimate scene, as part of an unseen ritual.  In the meantime, JJ Deveraux (in the past few months, turning around and becoming one of the soap’s most likable characters) suddenly breaks down and has sex with his arch enemy Eve.  And it seems that JJ (Casey Moss) is suddenly old enough to have some chest hair himself.  Let’s see if he is allowed to keep it.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Vox Media recalls the 1971 ABC-TV animated presentation of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens



Vox Media has tweeted a story resurrecting the 1971 made-for-TV animated short (25 minutes) of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.  The film, winning a best animated short Oscar in 1972, was produced for ABC television and was directed by Richard Williams, and is narrated by Michael Redgrave.  The Vox story by Todd Van der Werff calls this the best adaptation of the Dickens novel ever made, with link here.
  
Most of us don’t think of this tale as a “ghost story”, but indeed it is.  Ebenezer Scrooge is indeed a bit rather schizoid, and he uses his wealth to avoid discomforting connections to ordinary people. He says “there is nothing as hard as poverty so I pursue wealth.”  The first ghost is made into a metaphor of indigestion, rather curious (and recalling my own finicky nature as a boy).  That little ghost introduces the three main one, second of which (the present) wears a cape and has a rather bizarre paste-on toupe of chest hair.  He doesn’t seem very real.  Tiny Tim is presented as a kid who will not have another chance.  But the biggest casualties are the other little boy (ignorance) and girl (need).
  
  
Perhaps this particular version of the Dickens story fits well with Vox’s frequent commentary on inequality.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Spies of Mississippi" -- PBS documentary supplements "Freedom Summer"


Dawn Porter’s documentary “Spies of Mississippi”, for PBS and German television, will make a nice preview for this Christmas season’s film “Selma”, and complements the film “Freedom Summer” (Movies blog, June 22, 2014).
  
The heart of the 52-minute film concerns the Mississippi state “Sovereignty Commission” formed in 1956 to maintain segregation.  It would recruit undercover ("Uncle Tom") black “spies”, eventually leading to the murders of civil rights workers Andy Goodman, Michael Schwerner (both white) and James Cheney in 1964.
  
There had been an attitude that segregation produced “mutual respect”.
  
The film tells the story also of Clive Kennard, who applied to a white college, and was then railroaded into a phony felony conviction and would spend most of the rest of his life at Parchman Prison.
  
  
The official site is here.
  
The film can be watched in instant play on Netflix, or rented free online on Amazon Prime. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Jackson MS picture. I visited it in 1985.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

AC360: "5 Inspiring People of 2014"


AC360 aired “5 Inspiring People of 2014” tonight, link .
  
Gary Dahler rescued twelve firefighters trapped in a California wilfire.
  
Ron Johnson, a Missouri highway patrolman, returned to Ferguson to help restore peace.
Kevin Vickers downed the shooter at the Ottawa Parliament building. Vickers had planned a life of service.
  
  
Fatu Kekula, a nursing student in Liberia, brought her father home with Ebola to care for him.  Three other family members got Ebola but no one died, although two people came close to death with very low blood pressure.  This was the most remarkable of the stories. Time Magazine made the Ebola fighters the “person of the year” (link )

Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder received an award as most valuable player. 

There seems to be a great deal of humility in these people, compared to the rest of us 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

SNL does a skit on with Hobbits working in a modern office


SNL last night did a pretty convincing skit of the “Hobbit Office”.  It showed a countrified scene, almost Amish, of a wagon crossing a stream, to a low-rise suburban office building.
  
Indoors, all kinds of critters did their jobs at computer terminals with Windows 7 and spoke in their own Tolkien language.
  
Baggins was pretty convincing, keeping order.  What if they were working as debt collectors?
 
This has to be good PR for WB's "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" to be released next Wednesday.  A particular friend always goes to see a Hobbit or Tolkien or fantasy movie on Christmas eve, and reviews it in multiple tweets.
 
CNN also reports the mock of the Charlie Rose show interviewing contractors for CIA torture techniques, here.
   
Martin Freeman hosted.
  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Peter Pan LIVE!" -- does it bring Broadway stage to TV? Never growing up isn't funny now


NBC re-aired its television rendition, “Peter Pan LIVE!” of the live adaption of the 1954 Broadway musical based on the works of J. M. Barrie.  It had been first aired on Dec. 4.  Glenn Weiss is the live television director. 

The colors are garish, and the flora in “Neverland” resembles what you might see on an M-star planet, with lots of use of colors at the blue and violet ends of the spectrum 

Gender bending lets Allison Williams play Peter Pan, waltzing into the upstairs bedrooms of a London flat as the show opens.  It’s hard to tell if she’s a boy at the beginning.  But this is nothing new.  In opera, particular Richard Strauss (“Der Rosenkavalier”) women sometimes played men’s parts.

The comedy toward the end seems rather outlandish given the problems in the world these days.  No, asking a boy if he wants to be a pirate isn’t even funny (if you’ve seen Captain Phillips).
The show is narrated by Minnie Driver, and the music, with several composers, seems collaborative and rather lightweight. 
 
I think that NBC is trying to offer viewers a chance to experience Broadway without paying $200 for a ticket and dealing with the "logistical" hassle.  But going to the theater in New York is supposed to be fun, right?

  
NBC’s link is here
  
“I won’t grow up” does describe how I sometimes felt as a boy.


Friday, December 12, 2014

ABC 20-20 "The Sell Game": how to make a living as a huckster if you can't do anything else


ABC 20-20 tonight featured “The Sell Game”, going into the field of hucksterism, and of people who make a desperate or good living at it. 

A good salesman is a chameleon. He or she is in combat with the customer.
  
I recall the phrase “always be closing” from the comedy movie “The 100 Mile Rule” in 2002.
  
ABC investigated the practice of selling changes to home security.  One person in Chicago represented himself as from ADT when he was not.  One company told door-to-door sales reps to ignore “no solicitation signs”.  Persons who do so may be guilty personally of committing criminal trespass and might be prosecuted in some places.  People may be less willing to admit door-to-door because of fear of home invasion, which has been growing.
  
Robert Herjavec has a video for “Shark Tank” on closing a sale, link

My own attitude is that it isn't acceptable any more, for me at least, to go into people's lives to hucksterize someone else's stuff.  Of course, there is salesmanship for your own work.

It's really quite remarkable to me, upon reflection, how so much of our workplace used to depend on aggressive personal salesmamship.  I found that out last decade as my "career" (in the sense of the last movement of the Shostakovich Symphony #13) as an individual contributor in IT collapsed. and found so many interviews for jobs based on commissions and aggressive behavior (which had been OK for my father a half century ago -- but he sold to retailers, not to individual consumers).  In the Internet age, this sort of thing seems no longer appropriate.  There are more people like me who don't like to be approached (in public when walking or by telemarketers) so it is getting harder for sales people to make a living.  A new kind of cultural divide, with moral overtones, is developing.

I think that instead of just "American Hustle" (with all its legal issues now), we need "American Huckster", produced and directed by Seth Rogen (and maybe James Franco), and released by Columbia Pictures (Sony) as a summer movie. 
 
At the end of the episode, a girl from Detroit shows how to sell for charity.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

CNN airs "Dinosaur 13", where a politicized prosecution overshadows the science


CNN Films is giving an early look at the Sundance documentary (also owned by Lionsgate for DVD and possibly limited theatrical relase) “Dinosaur 13”, directed by Todd Douglas Miller.  The film is based on materials from the book “Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur that Changed Science, the Law and My Life”, by Peter Larson with Kristin Donnan. 
  
The legal documentary follows the discovery in 1990 of the fossil “Sue”, a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, one of the most complete ever found, in northwestern South Dakota, on the edge of the Badlands and not far from the Black Hills.
  
Most of the film concerns the sad story of paleontologist Peter Larson, who, with his brother Neal, founded the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, SD.  Larson allegedly removed some of Sue from “private” land held in trust by the federal government.  Later, after some sort of complaint by the landowner Maurice Williams, the federal government seized the fossil and prosecuted some people, including Larson, who was also prosecuted for failure to declare some items to customs and sentenced to two years of prison, which, after 18 months, would be followed by halfway house and then home detention.
  
The seizures, prosecutions and convictions seem politically motivated, and it isn’t real clear from the film how the fibbies or landowners or tribes gained anything at all (except at the end where Williams gets a lot of proceeds from an auction at Sotherby's).  The government (even after a change to the Clinton administration and Reno Justice Department, or maybe because of it) pressed various charges for "theft", "wire fraud", "money laundering" and "false answers to customs" regarding various additional fossil remains takings from several other states into S.D. The case would probably make for a good “Cato book forum” with Neal (and his brother) at the Cato Institute (I went to another one today involving a gun case, for Biran D, LAitken), as an example of prosecutorial abuse or overreach.  The Legal Guys on CNN’s Saturday show should discuss this.

One of the (female) reporters actually married Peter.  Yes, journalists aren't supposed to fall in love with their own subjects,  A woman originally involved with the 1990 finding (after whom the dinosaur was named) was coerced into testifying for the prosecution. It's all quite incredible. 
         
This documentary is being compared to others where CNN has paired with major film distributors to present ethical or legal cases involving animals, such as “Blackfish” (Moves blog, July 29, 2013) and “The Cove” (Movie blog, Aug. 7, 2009).  This film is shot 2.35:1 and shown that way (cropped on flat screens slightly) on television.
  
  
The official site for the film is here
  
Sue is now in a Chicago museum, enjoying a certain vicarious immortality. She was formidable in her own time.

I drove through the area (north of Pierre) near the film in May 1998, and then again Thanksgiving weekend 1999.  I recall a huge power station north if Pierre, one of the largest in the country.  I had visited the Black Hills earlier in 1974.  Other people I know had done retreats on Sioux reservations at Pine Ridge. 

Wikipedia attribution link for typical western South Dakota scenery, here.   There are relevant materials at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington that I can try to add to the review after another future visit.

Update: Dec. 13

Here's picture of another "rex" fossil, at the Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History. This was found in 1998 in eastern Montana, and I actually made a trip through that area Memorial Day weekend of that year, when living in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

NBC and Tom Brokaw tell "Unbroken: The Real Story" regarding Universal's Christmas Day epic directed by Angelina Jolie


Tonight NBC News presented a preview of the Universal picture “Unbroken”, with the documentary “Unbroken: The Real Story”.
  
Tom Brokaw interviews Angelina Jolie, the director, and gets into personal issues:  her decision to have preventive mastectomy and reconstruction, which has launched a new medical trend.  Now she faces a decision with an inherited tendency toward ovarian cancer.  I thought, I am solo, and could never get back on my feet if I had to stop to do something like this when I don’t have symptoms.  My momentum keeps me going at 71.  In medicine, less is more.  Brokaw also asked Jolie if she would go into politics (“public service”). 

Brokaw interviewed book author Laura Hillenbrand (she had written “Seabiscuit).  (The screenplay is written with Joel and Ehan Coen.) I thought, you have to have your own writing about your own issues completely done before you can write about others.  At least that’s what I find with myself.  Hillenbrand, who lives in Washington, DC, says she has medical issues that make it difficult for her to travel.  I have found it more taxing to do complicated travel in recent years and maintain all my work, but I need to get through this.  I need to “be there” and “experience” to “report it”.  Someday, I really do need to see Russia and China, somehow.

The show mentioned the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum at a pier in Manhattan.  How about the Rose Science Center?

The epic film will tell the story of Louis Zamperini, who entered the 1936 Olympics and was shot down in the Pacific during World War II and kept prisoner by the Japanese, and actually thought lost or dead for some time. 


Here is NBC Today Show’s link for tonight’s documentary.  
   
The film starts Christmas Day.

Bill 

Monday, December 08, 2014

CNN Heroes 2014: emphasis on animals, kids, wounded warriors


Anderson Cooper hosted “CNN Heroes” Sunday night from New York City.

  
The audience gave the top hero award to Pen Farthing (link), who reunites solders with stray dogs that they befriended in Afghanistan. This reminds me of Gus Kenworthy’s efforts in Sochi, Russia after the Winter Olympic (NBC Today show story here). Also, actor Reid Ewing appears on the Facebook site for the Best Friends Animal Society of Utah, at the Pet Adoption Center for Sugar House, here . Another animal rescue theme was from Leela Hazzah, for educating an indigenous people (the Maasai) into guarding lions rather than killing them, here. The episode showed some female lionesses interacting with people. Anthony Bourdain had covered the Maasai on “Parts Unknown:, writeup Oct. 28.  (Sometimes the tribe name is spelled “Masai”. )
  
I think one of the most interesting was composer-pianist Arthur Bloom’s use of music for wounded veterans, forming Musicorps Wounded Warrior Band (link), RIME writeup here. The effort reminds one of music therapy for dementia or even autism. 
  
Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes formed a community center for kids in Guatemala, link).  This effort would help take the pressure off of illegal child emigration to America.  Guatemala also has water projects;  a relative who is an engineer worked on one.  The most dangerous countries though are Honduras and El Salvador.  

Sunday, December 07, 2014

CNN "Deadly High": how a man rationalized a home business that sold designer synthetic drugs that killed teens in ND


A CNN hour long report “Deadly High” starts with a party where two teenagers in Grand Forks, ND consume “chocolate” laced with a designer drug to get high.   One of them goes unconscious and dies a few days later when a respirator is disconnected. He would be the second teen in a short period to die of synthetic drugs”.
  
In Houston, a family man, Charles Carlton would start a company at home, “Motion Resources” to import  and distribute synthetic drugs for “research purposes” only.  He became an employee of his own company, filed a W-2 and had a license from the Texas secretary of state.
  
Eventually, Carlton would see the story of the teen deaths on the news. This random broadcast would send his life downhill immediately.   And, although he had believed that what he did was technically legal, he would be visited,  prosecuted and sentenced to 20 years (after pleading guilty) for essentially distributing a “controlled substance analog”. 

What is interesting is how Carlton “rationalized” his innovative home startup  as being technically legal, except for the "analog" idea that swallowed him later.  Later Carlton would become amazingly stoic about how he was going to be severely punished for what he had done, and even his wife is shown debating whether to forgive him and how raise the two children. 
  
The CNN report details the “Operation Stolen Youth” here.(Compare to "Neurons to Nirvana" on the Movies blog, Dec. 10, 2014.)


James Franco, hosting SNL, opens by making fun of Sony hack


James Franco hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC Saturday, December 6m showing up with a buzz cut.



Franco started out his monologue by making fun of the hack, apparently associated with North Korea, on Sony Pictures, which made and will distribute the Chrisrtmas Day release of the film he made with Seth Rogen, “The Interview” (directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen), where he plays a journalist interviewing the North Korean “king” and is tasked by the CIA to, well, take him out.  All fiction, right?

IMDB gives more on his and Rogen's appearance on SNL here.  Al Sharpton was also mocked (CNN video).  But NBC actually cut one skit from airing ("the white of an egg", etc), here according to CNN. 

I’ve found out in my own life that sometimes people take fiction as future fact.  Look at what happened when I was a substitute teacher over my 2005 screenplay “The Sub”.
  
Franco has become one of Hollywood’s more charismatic figures, hosting an academy awards, and with a variety of controversial roles, such as the hiker who had to cut his arm off, yet sometimes directing unusual films, such as one about gay leather bars.  
  
Someday I'll have to get to be in the SNL audience, but it takes real work!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

NBC's "Harry Potter: The Making of Diagon Alley"


There is a full 42-minute NBC special “Harry Potter: The Making of Diagon Alley”, hosted by Meredit Vieira, on Youtube, on a channel of Nik Beumer, link here.

The film traces the construction of the new Diagon Alley replica as part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort. The whole concept also includes a Hogsmeade section in Universal’ separate Islands of Adventure.  There is a new Hogwarts express train connecting the two,
  
The film shows the entire construction process of the train, built in Switzerland, and then the building o the Diagon Alley Village, and area about seven blocks deep and ten blocks wide, behind the King’s Cross station and London waterfront.  The guests enter through an unmarked broken brick wall.  The area has quaint buildings tilted to look as they do in the film.  An important specific attraction is the Gringott’s Bank, and the ride “Escape from Gringotts” (description ) is one of the main events .  The film concludes with some kids (some of them from Universal families) attending the preview of the grand opening in July 2014. 

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and the Phelps twins (now grown) appear.  The orchestra is shown rehearsing John Williams’s score. 

The whole construction project sounds like grown-ups, with hundreds of millions of capital from Wall Street, playing with blocks like we did as kids in Ohio, building model cities with buildings and toy trains and cars behind grandmother’s house  (to be washed away by weekly Ohio summer thunderstorms) – “baby play” – but not now. 

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" is reviewed on the Movies blog July 15, 2011.

Why J. K. Rowling's books series became such a tremendous commercial success for Schoolastic and then Warner Brothers would make an essay in itself.  Universal would have had to pay WB for the legal right to use this material in a theme park.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Honeydukes shop 

Update: Dec. 25, 2014

NBC Today Show did a tour of some of Diagon Alley and some of the Orlando Universal theme park rides.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

WJLA Town Hall: "Fallout from Ferguson"


Wednesday, December 3, 2014. WJLA-7 and News Channel 8 (ABC affiliates) in Washington DC aired another Town Hall episode from “Your Voice, Your Future: “Fallout from Ferguson”, also called “Ferguson: America Reacts”.
  
The program opened as Thuman noted that in New York City, a grand jury refused to indict Dan Pantelo for the “chokehold” killing of Eric Garner (350 pounds, father of 6) when trying to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes, CNN story and comments by  Jeffrey Toobin, here

Leon Harris  and, Scott Thuman hosted.
  
The panel comprised Michael Eric Dyson, Benjamin Crump, Jamie Allman (by Skype from St. Louis), Armstrong Williams, and Gary MclHinney.

Leon Harris noted that the Ferguson Police Department seemed to be armed like troops in Baghdad.  They regarded the majority population of Ferguson as an enemy.

Mr. Dyson said that police tend to perceive Blacks as more threatening than Whites, and are more likely to use deadly force. He mentioned Wilson’s horror movie metaphors.   
Allman said that black police officers in St. Louis county don’t want to work for small suburb police departments, but work for the larger departments. 

Harris said there is no national database on how many people by race are shot by police. Vox has a chart on this.

Harris also said the cameras are “pre-emptive”.  People are less likely to act aggressively around police if they know police have cameras.

A protester at GWU, lying in a street to block it, asked “What must we do to change the system?”
Leon Harris noted that the protests don’t seem to be organized centrally.  He spoke of “The Gesture” (hands up) by the St. Louis Rams.  (It’s not “OGAB”). 

Wikipedia attribution link for St. Louis montage. 
  
Dyson said that Obama himself needs more empathy for those who are vulnerable, even though the president himself is of mixed race. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

"Sleepy Hollow" on Fox brings back high school American lit -- with a resurrection


Remember studying American literature in junior English in high school?  Remember the reading quizzes?   We took them on 5x7 cards.  But modern television looks back to those good old days, on Fox, with “Sleepy Hollow”, directed by Dwight Little, starting in 2013, on Monday nights on Fox.
  
The concept recalls Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (which was also a 1999 film by Tim Burton, which I saw in Minneapolis).  But now professor Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) has answered the call of a stomper, and having switched sides after emigrating from England to spy for George Washington (a touch of James Fenimore Cooper, about whom I wrote term paper in junior English, about the treatment of women in the novels).  That’s an idea in my own “Angel’s Brother” – you can have a full career as a history teacher and work for the CIA on the side.
Crane and the Headless Horseman simultaneously killed one another in 1781.  Because their “sangria” mixed, they can resurrect at the same time in present day (sounds a bit like a notorious ABC series, doesn’t it.) A modern day battle between good and evil will ensue, based on the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. 
  
Nicole Beharie plays police Lieutenant Abbie Mills in the modern day setting.  Crane still thinks he is living in the 18th century, and would be happier there.

The episode Dec. 1 was “The Akeda”. The horseman is a rather conventional golem-type monster. 

The series concept effectively combines the short story with “Rip Van Winkle.”

  

The official site for the show is here. Although taking place along the Hudson River in New York State, it is filmed around Charlotte, NC.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lisa Ling visits "Man Camp" (like Dr. Phi's) in Williston ND oil patch, where the homeless are "filthy rich"


Lisa Ling ("This Is Life") visits the oil shale operation at Williston ND in an episode called “Filthy Rich” on CNN.  A typical local reference is this
  
The most interesting part of the episode was the depiction of the “man camp”, a temporary housing mass where men live in dormitory fashion, with one washroom per every eight people, and a 10 ft x 12 ft room for each person, with TV and Internet.  A female truck driver named Heather, who at 50 could outperform most of the men, lived there with them.  Dr. Phil would have been proud of the “Mancamp”.
  
Rents in the area approach those in New York. The short frost-free season makes rapid building more difficult.
  
The segment also covered the women who make a living as dancers in bars or sometimes as prostitutes. 
  
The episode could be compared to the film “The Overnighters”, reviewed on the movies blog Nov. 15, 2014.
   
Wikipedia attribution link for Williston area picture. 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

"Death in the Driveway", notorious SC murder case of Melvin Roberts on NBC Dateline


Friday night, NBC Dateline aired “Death in the Driveway”, about the murder of defense attorney and landlord Melvin Roberts, found stabbed to death in his driveway in York. SC, with his girlfriend in duct tape.  A good link is here, full episode here
 
Eventually the girl friend Julia Phillips became a suspect – the duct tape wasn’t very convincing, and was convicted of hiring a hit man for the murder.  She will face life without parole.
Phillips got greedy when the 69-year-old wanted to end the relationship.

  
The State has a detailed story by Jonathan McFadden, here
    
The conviction has been appealed and other accomplices are being sought.   
  
York SC is in northern SC, in the Piedmont, closer to Charlotte NC than to Columbia.  

Friday, November 28, 2014

Lisa Ling presents documentary on gay rodeos


This Is Life” with Lisa Ling, aired a report on Gay Rodeos recently. The main CNN link is here. The title is "The Faces of America's Gay Rodeo."


Ling interviewed a number of male and female participants, including Brianna, Will, and “Bubba”.  One man, who came out in the 1970s at 33, recalled the time that Reno, NV banned a gay rodeo; when he tried to participate in a regular one, the sheriff surrounded him with two cars, brandished a gun, and said that “queers” couldn’t come on the property.  He says the knew that the sheriff was "in the wrong" legally and only doing it because he thought he could get away with it.  Suddenly, that recalls the debate now on police abuse based on race, centering on Ferguson, MO,  but also on other incidents in the past.  (Let me mention that in 1968, when I was in Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, there was an incident in Orangeburg, 50 miles away.)

“Bubba”, around 50, did not want to identify himself and still kept his or her face in shadows because of employment as a prison guard.
  
When I lived in Dallas, I recall that there gay rodeos were held once a year somewhere in Texas (in the 80s).
 
The documentary (42 minutes) presented the competitive events of all rodeos.  May participants enter the mainstream events, too. 

Robin Roberts hosts "Thank You, America" on ABC; Minnesota family fostered 90 children


Robin Roberts hosted a special presentation “Thank You, America!” Thanksgiving evening at 8 PM EST, major  ABC News link here.

The main event was Roberts’s surprising the Neal family in St. Cloud, MN, who have fostered over 90 children, as well as adopting four (including one from Africa) and a pair of twins (link) .
   
Roberts also interviewed Taylor Swift.


Later Roberts interviewed an elderly couple, the Harveys, who had cashed in its 401(k) account to start a food pantry charity for the homeless, in Gaithersburg. MD., link 
     
Roberts received a bone marrow transplant for myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) in 2013, as outlined in a Sloan Kettering article here. This pre-leukemia may occur as a result of previous chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

CNN: "Black and Blue", part of "Black in America" series, with Soledad O'Brien, shows racial profiling by police in Brooklyn (with Eric Garner case on Staten Island)


As part of its “Black in America” series, CNN has offered a report by Soledad O’Brien “Black & Blue” about the relations between the New York City police department and the African American community, particularly in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. There is some focus on the 79th Precinct.  And frankly there is racial profiling going on.
   
This report was first aired before the "no bill" result from the Fergusion grand jury.

  
Soledad O’Brien describes the show on her “unofficial” blog here .

It’s quite remarkable how some in the community resent the behavior of police.  The documentary starts as a black man shouts “I can’t breathe”, which will become a chant later, as police hold him.  The man later lies.  He had been selling untaxed cigarettes. 

The man who dies is Eric Garner.  Since CNN first aired the film, the policeman who took him down Daniel Pantelio, was reviewed by a grand jury which did not indict him Crowds have protested peacefully, although getting arrested for blocking traffic with "die-ins" all over New York City. As of this juncture, it is hard to understand why there was no indictment (Wiki story). 
    
“BedStuy” is a rapidly gentrifying area (maybe like NE Washington now).  Young professionals are buying or renting old brownstones and moving in as real estate development continues.  The poor people are pushed out as rent controls expire.  Is this part of the problem?  But back in the 1970s, when I lived in Manhattan, the area was considered "poor". 
   
Blacks represent 23% of NYC’s population but just 16% of the NYPD (New York Post article .NYPD created some controversy in the 1990s under mayor Rudy Giuliani with its “broken windows” police policy. 
  
Some sources may spell the episode title out as "Black and Blue".   



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ABC's Stephanopoulos's extended interview with Darren Wilson


Late Tuesday night, at 12:35 AM Wednesday, November 26, 2014, ABC Nightline aired the complete interview of police officer Darren Wilson by George Stephanopoulos. The entire video last 45 minutes, and ABC News gave the episode the title “Decision in Ferguson.”  The full link is here.    Many partial embeds are available on YouTube.  I’ll also give the Wikipedia link here
  

The details that officer Wilson relate are shocking.  He, although armed, seems to have been trapped in his own cruiser by an unarmed young man with the build of a pro football lineman.  It seems that Brown finally started to retreat but then returned, even as shots were hitting him. 


It’s true that eyewitness accounts from the community contradict what Wilson says, but forensics apparently support what Wilson says. 

Yet, it seems unbelievable, at first, that an unarmed man would attack an armed uniform police officer, even in his cruiser, this way. 

Other indignant voices in Ferguson’s African-American community seem to maintain that he is lying.  They often, as in a barber shop interview (almost as in the film franchise “”Barber Shop”) indicate a belief that the mostly white police department behaves as part of a corrupt power structure, like that of past generations.  They also think that it is a convenient coincidence that the grand jury, randomly chosen (although the process usually is not as random as it needs to be because of the length of the term) had nine of twelve white members.


Wilson’s testimony is graphic in its precise detail.  But to judge its credibility, I can only pause to review a few possible confrontations in my own life, for comparison.

One time, as I walked near the Capitol in Washington, I saw a couple of Capitol Police officers, and one had a revolver that appeared loose.  A street attacker could have taken it from him from behind.  I simply crossed the street and got away from this as quickly as possible.


Twice, for example, I’ve been in situations where I feared carjacking, once locally and once in Ohio.  In the local situation, the perpetrator appeared stoned on drugs and unable to carry out his threat.  In both occasions, I sped away quickly and nothing happened.  Facebook founded Mark Zuckerberg reports a similar incident in California just after he had moved there to start his company, and he likewise drove away instantly.  In all these cases, simply retreating worked.  I know that some on the “right wing” will say we were lucky and should have been able to defend ourselves.  But often retreat works.  In another occasion a few years ago, at some distance I inadvertently saw an older man make what looked like an inappropriate advance on an athletic teenage boy.  The teenager ignored it and simply walked away.  In my own observation, retreat usually happens.   

In Ferguson, the whole tragic encounter took just 90 seconds.  Wilson says he followed procedure to the letter.  It seems that backup forces took longer than expected to arrive.  Brown could not have escaped arrest if backup had arrived sooner.  Wilson says he agrees with the idea of police wearing cameras. In this case, it seems like it is very difficult to prove hard facts.  It is amazing how difficult this is.

Michael Brown’s behavior that Saturday sounds unbelievable.  He reportedly was going to college and had not been in trouble, does not report mental illness or drug issues.  Then why was he shoplifting?  And why was he, a “good kid”, suddenly behaving in such a belligerent manner? This sounds like a question for Dr. Phil. 

Possibly there had been some informal plan among some residents of the community to ask one of the more physically compelling members to be willing to confront police, given a belief that they were themselves being targeted.  This sounds sinister and gang-like, but maybe this was happening.  I am not a big believer in affirmative action, but why had not normal human resources practices resulted in more African American police officers on the force as a matter of routine?
  
The violence in the Ferguson community, however, has probably harmed more African-American business owners than anyone else.  It makes no sense to talk about victims; they bore the losses and pay for the crimes of others.  AC360 addressed the issue of lost businesses here
   
Huffington Post has an important article about other recent police shootings, link here.  ( I see no mention there of Darrien Hunt in Utah.) Ebony has an interview with Pharrell Williams who does ask about Michael Brown's "bullyish" and out-of-character behavior, which it seems no one is looking at. 

Note that former prosecutor Nancy Grace said on HLN that "it doesn't add up" and that (like me or Zuckerberg) Wilson should have driven out of the way if he feared for his life, link here. 
   
The angry (from the crowds) rhetoric seems not to be about facts and logic, but about enemies, taking sides, loyalties, and conflict, even “class warfare” as Noam Chomsky would portray it. It’s a sort of thinking not so different from radical behavior in other parts of the world, including religiously based. Even if Darren Wilson has a clean conscience and is telling the complete truth (and I'm inclined to believe him), he will still pay personally the consequences for sharing in a "group wrong" of a pattern of racial injustice from the past.  It is a trend I cannot afford to be caught up by, or it ends my life.  

I realize that the attention to the ABC report may seem one-sided.  If some party presents a detailed report with the opposing view, I would watch it and review it. 
     
Pictures: demonstrations in Washington DC, Nov. 25, near Mt. Vernon Square 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ABC's "Castle" episode "Kill Switch" combines two threats in NYC, but misuses a well-known influenza virus


ABC pushed its regularly scheduled programs Monday night up for Ferguson, but did not pre-empt them.  I caught an episode of “Castle” called “Kill Switch”, where a murder suspect threatens to become a suicide bomber on a NYC subway car.  Then we learn that the explosion would release a deadly influenza. 


The problem is that the call the flu “H5N1” which appeared in 2011 and for which we now have an effective vaccine.  The program could have picked one of the bird flu’s, rather than swine flu.  At the end, we learn that a female scientist wants a market for her vaccine.

Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle, the novelist who sees his plots carried out in “real life”.  That calls for layered screenwriting.  
  
See my review of "Carriers" on my "CF" blog Dec. 7, 2010, and a retrospect on a 1999 ABC Nightline simulation of a fictitious anthrax attack on the Bart system in Sam Francisco (same blog).  

Monday, November 24, 2014

CNN makes spectacle of Ferguson protests after "no bill" of indictment from grand jury


CNN has covered live the long statement by St. Louis County prosecutor Bib McCulloch deliver a long statement explaining the decision by the grand jury to return “no bill” – no indictment against police officer Darren Wilson.


The most critical parts of the evidence seemed to be that Mr. Brown had approached the officer’s car and had approached the officer another time.  Apparently Brown reached into the car or for Warren's weapon at one point. Missouri law is said not to be in full compliance with former Supreme Court rulings on when police may use deadly force.

I could not find a full transcript of his remarks or link for all of the evidence as of this writing, but will add it as soon as I find it. There is a transcript of Wilson's testimony here

Sonny Jostin, Jeffrey Toobin and Mark O'Mera analyze the prosecutor's remarks here
  
What is more disturbing, however, is that disorder and violence broke out in Ferguson very quickly, and CNN televised it live during the past hour.  Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, Jason Carrol, and Andew Cuomo all ran from tear gas.  Police cars were turned over and fires appeared on live television.  CNN seemed to be focusing on the spectacle and aired it on CNNGo to cable subscribers.
   
Other networks interrupted their regular programs briefly, but not to the extent of CNN. 
  
There are reports of a march of about 300-1000 people from U Street to the White House in Washington DC Monday night.  There is a gathering of people shouting in unison in front of the White House now. 

President Obama’s remarks at 10 PM.


Live coverage on CNN may continue all night.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of looting Aug 4 in Ferguson 

Update: Nov. 25

In Ferguson, a protester screamed a CNN's Jason Carroll, "you do not understand. You are enhancing THEIR narrative." A police cruiser was set on fire at about 11 PM EDT. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

NBC Dateline "Mystery on the Early Shift" in a Kentucky laboratory (the Michelle Mockee case); suggestions for Dateline (take up the "cold" Powell, Green cases)


NBC Dateline offers a video of a polygraph with Josh Mankiewicz, with a female examiner who speaks with great confidence about their reliability, despite inadmissibility.

  
The Dateline episode for Friday Nov. 21, 2014 is “Mystery on the Early Shift”.  In a Cincinnati suburb, Florence, actually in northern Kentucky in Boone County, a woman, Michelle Mockbee is found murdered, by blunt force beating, in her administrative office at a company called Thermo Fisher Scientific, on May 29, 2012. The NBC link is here

There were only five people in the building at the time, before 7 AM.  The prosecutor (Linda Tally Smith)  and sheriff eliminated four of the suspects, including the victim’s husband, by the process of elimination that matches the famous board game of Clue (as the prosecutor characterized it).  The person finally arrested and convicted of second degree murder was the janitor David Dooley.

It does seem as though the evidence was circumstantial.  The DNA found on the arms of the victim did not match anyone in the building.

The fact pattern showed an attempted break-in to her office.  The motive was supposedly that she caught him breaking into an office trying to falsify payroll records.  The prosecutor said “desperate people do desperate things.”

All the other original potential suspects had passed polygraph tests, but Dooley did not take one, according to the show.

Dooley received a life sentence according to this story

This was one of the best Dateline episodes lately. The audience could try to solve the case just as in the boardgame.  I wonder if there is a smart phone Clue app. The other famous crime board game from the 1950s was “Mr. Ree”, which is largely forgotten, but it had a nice illustrative layout of an estate.  I remember the pagoda.  I think we played that game summers in Ohio in the 1950s.
   
I think that NBC Datelines should take a couple of specific subjects.  One is to follow up on the “To Catch a Predator” series, even though Chris Hansen is no longer with NBC.  It would be interesting to know how some of the more prominent community members (like the rabbi David Kaye from Maryland, and a cancer researcher in California) fared in prison and after getting out. Only NBC could easily follow up on this. It could make an interesting independent film documentary.
   
Another idea would be to do a complete study on the open case of security-related technical workers Kanika Powell and Sean Green at two locations in Prince Georges County MD in late 2008.  There’s a reddit post here. (There are many other sources).  NBC Dateline could go back to the original Washington Post stories and work forward.  In the Powell case, there are questions about how many men actually came to her apartment at different times, what was the escape route, her emails.  There are many bizarre details that a full investigation by a news organization like Dateline could do, but a lot of fact finding would be needed to be redone.  One question would be whether the murders are related.
   
For the record, I worked for NBC, in IT, from 1974-1977.  It’s still a good memory. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Don Lemon's "CNN Tonight" panelist predicts "no indictment" of Darren Wilson in Ferguson shooting; conviction at a real trial said to be very difficult


Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight” on Wednesday night (10 P EST), interviewed Cyril Wecht (link), a forensic pathologist, who predicted that in Ferguson, “The Grand Jury is not going to indict the officer (Darren Wilson) in this case”.  Wecht later said he would personally vote to indict, but in a real trial there would be tremendous reasonable doubt in a petit jury trial. Even with an indictment. officials would have to brace later for the very likely acquittal.  
    
Tom Fuentes (CNN legal analyst), David Klinger (criminal justice professor, link)  and Van Jones (legal analyst) also discussed the matter with Wecht.  The link (provided in case the embed below stops working) with video is here
    
  
There are many stories in the media about police preparations for demonstrations in many cities, not just around St. Louis.  The Washington Post reports preparations in a story by Wesley Lowrey and Kimberly Kindy, link here. The post links to a posting of 19 “Proposed Rules of Engagement” by a “Don’t Shoot Coalition”, link here
   
 Wikipedia attribution link of picture of Ferguson protesters in August. Note the sign “We are the village”.  
  
I'll add here, as I have on other blogs and Facebook, that the case of Darrien Hunt by police in Saratoga Springs, UT needs more media attention, particularly on CNN.