Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NBC's "Running Wild with Bear Grylls" takes Zac Efron on a 48-hour purification in the Catskills

Running Wild with Bear Grylls” opened with a 48-hour adventure with first client Zac Efron, apparently taking place in the Catskill Mountains in New York State, about 100 miles NW of New York City, with the highest elevations not much over 4000 feet.  Grylls is a British outdoor adventurer.

Zac did a lot of rappelling into canyons, and living off the land like an apex predator, recoiling at the idea of eating a roasted squirrel.  (Foxes eat them.)  He talked about his issues with alcohol, and then acknowledged the mental purification of an outdoors adventure like this, saying “I haven’t thought about anything all weekend.”

Zac is now 26 and looked bulked and muscular, grown up from his role as “Troy” in the “High School Musical” movies.

He also did one parachute jump.

He gay outdoors group Adventuring in Washington DC has done parachute jumps and hot air balloon rides, but I’ve never done it.  In the 90s, a jump would cost $160.

Picture: Whiteface Mountain, (Adirondacks), NY State, Aug. 2012, my trip. I did Heart Lake alone (with Mount Marcy) in 1974.    

Sunday, July 27, 2014

John Walsh hunts down Brad Bishop, diplomat who killed his family in 1976 ; Mozdir killed in shootout in NYC after tip based on show

John Walks continued “The Hunt” Sunday night with a cold case that is 38 years old.  A diplomat, Brad Bishop, had lived abroad for years, and did not get a promotion in the State Department when he returned home to live.  In early 1976 he was facing financial problems.  On March 1, 1976, after buying a sledge hammer, he bludgeoned his wife, three children and mother to death, drove the bodies down to rural North Carolina and torched them, then disappeared.  A warden found the bodies and tracked the evidence back to Montgomery County.  The CNN link for the video is here.  Later, detectives found he had been in touch with a prisoner and tried to hire a hit man to kill his family.

The personality of Bishop sounds narcissistic, almost like that of Elliot Rodger, one that he is entitled to anything and can extract “retribution” on anyone who stands in his way.
The report had some anomalies.  There was a sign for Richmond that I know is located on US 301 in Maryland, above the Nice Bridge, not near Potomac (shown above, my visit).  And the pine barrens countryside obviously wasn’t coastal North Carolina, because it wasn’t flat enough.  

Update: July 28, 2014

I have not yet seen the episode on Charles Mozdir (I will review it when I do), bit there is Breaking News that US Marshalls received a tip that he was living in the West Village in New York City, and was killed early Monday July 28 in a shoot out with NYPD police or US marshalls.  The New York Post has the story here. Police or US Marshalls were injured seriously in the shootout.
My second picture here is from SoHo, near the Angelika Theater, June 29, 2014.   

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Elementary" on CBS, with a transplanted Sherlock Holmes

It seems that a lot of television series are based on gimmicky ideas.  That was the impression I got from an episode from “Elementary”, called “Blood Is Thicker”, re-aired July 24, 2014 on CBS (from 11/13/2013).  There’s a typical scoop here.

This time, the idea is that Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller)  has set himself up in New York City, helping NYPD, after recovering from drug addiction while living in London and working for Scotland Yard.  In this episode Holmes is encouraged to consider moving back to London. 

Dr. Watson becomes female, played by Lucy Liu.

The murder of a beautiful young woman leads police to focus on a billionaire, in the hospital trying to fight transplant rejection with an overactive immune system. 

There are no meat pies (or mud pies) here.  Sherlock Holmes has generated television series several times, including one in Russia. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CNN: "The Space Race" of "The Sixties"

CNN aired “The Space Race”, one week late, in its series “The Sixties” Thursday night, July 24.
The Soviet Union had put Sputnik in orbit in 1957, and a US countereffort (the Vanguard) blew up on the first try.  By 1961, Kennedy was determined to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon.  The Space Race was about our own sense of security, and I grew up with it.

The Soviets would be the first to have a man walk in space. But remember the film "The Right Stuff", pretty much set in 1963?
In 1967, NASA would experience a fire that would kill three astronauts. 
But July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, with Neil Armstrong (then 39) being the first to set foot on the Moon.
I have written how indeed this was a watermark in history.  Three weeks before, the Stonewall Rebellion, the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, had occurred in New York City.  This was probably Nixon’s best moment, long before we would realize how corrupt his presidency would become.
Apollo 13, in 1970, almost didn’t make it back, and it became the subject of a powerful film in 1995.
CNN has a link that explains how the US wanted to be the first to use the Moon as a site for nuclear weapons tests.  

There was real reason to fear that nuclear weapons or EMP strikes could be launched from space.
It’s amazing that computers in the 1960s, with their low memories by today’s standards, could manage spaceflight.  Technology has expanded enormously in communication since then, but not in the ability to actually move people to live on the Moon or other planets.  We’re not even close, except in science fiction, to figuring out how to handle the speed of light barrier to get to other solar systems.  Maybe there is a way to use worm holes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Under the Dome" explores Marxism, and then extermination, as Chester's Mill's food supply dwindles

I checked out an episode of the CBS series of Stephen King's “Under the Dome”, Season 2, Episode 4, “Revelation” (July 21), the town of Chesters Mill, ME is facing mass starvation as, under the Dome, people are cut off, cannot get goods, and agriculture is failing.

Big Jim Rennie (Dean Norris) and scientist Rebecca (Karla Crome) contemplate a plan to infect the town with swine flu, hoping that the less fit will die off so that the remaining an survive longer.
There is also a conversation to the effect that a “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” policy has been in effect, but that Marxist arrangement can’t hold forever.
There are also indications that some residents of the town 30 years ago knew this was coming. 
The cop Junior Rennie (Alexander Koch) lets a prisoner out (Lyle) to go over memorabilia, and Lyle attacks him. 
And the kids revisit the site where the previous incarnation of Melanie Cross died, when she picked up an extraterrestrial’s “egg” back in 1988. 

One speculation is that the “Dome” was set up by aliens as a political experiment, a kind of mass “Truman Show”.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PBS Frontline: "Poor Kids" in the Quad Cities (Iowa, Illinois)

Tuesday night, July 22, 2014, PBS re-aired a Frontline segment “Poor Kids”, about the lives of several families (one African-American, the other white) in the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois.  Mostly, they move from one motel to another after being evicted because their parents (in one case a single mom) can’t pay the rent.  They go to food pantries.  They move from school to school.  In motel rooms they have to share the same bed.  A father, sitting at a compute,  is shown trying to explain to his son why he just never finds work.
The link for the episode is here.  Numerous excerpts are online.

Another good question would be, what happens to the families in this part of the country after frequent destructive storms. 

The segment had first aired in Nov. 2012.  
Wikipedia attribution link for flooding of Davenport in 2008   I pass through the area various times as a boy with parents, but was last there in November 1998.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

CNN continues almost non-stop coverage of Malaysian airliner tragedy over eastern Ukraine; NBC revisit of an unusual Canadian filmmaker case; more on 1996 TWA 800 case

CNN coverage of the crash of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 has continued to dominate the network's coverage (along with the situation in Gaza).

Saturday morning, Chris Cuomo showed scenes of the wreckage on flat plains around the crash site in eastern Ukraine.  Cuomo was very critical of the unwillingness of Russian rebels who control the territory to show respect for the victims and allow neutral investigators to enter the area to do proper forensics on the remains.  Later, Russian rebels admitted that the plane had been shot down but would not claim responsibility.

The countryside looks quite flat and featureless, with wreckage visible for miles.

CNN says that the rebels or Russians have been trying to remove evidence of Russian equipment from the country across the border as quickly as possible.

Ralph Ellis, Laura Cohen and Laura Smith-Spark have the latest story on the crash site here.

The Guardian reports (Daniel Boffey) a Pilots Group story that the plane had changed course to fly over the Ukraine to avoid thunderstorms, account here.   But other observers have written that it has been acceptable for airlines to pass over this part of the Ukraine despite its being a war zone.

CNN also reports that Malaysian airlines may have ignored red flags before the incident.

July 20:  Early Sunday morning, CNN reported that trains had arrived to carry away bodies and remains. Later reports indicate that the rebels are doing this in order to keep investigators from finding them.  There are stories that the black box was taken.

The general "rumor" is that Russia provided all the weaponry.  "Dear Russia" -- what you did is not OK.
One farmer in the area reported a piece of plane and at least one body falling through her roof.

Earlier this

Other brief notes for TV news July 19:

Late Saturday evening, I posted a review of NBC Dateline's “Deadly House of Cards”, about the case of a filmmaker turned murderer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 2008, also covered in a book by Steve . Lillebuen, who appears in the episode, titled “The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story Behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room”.  Later, I discovered a shorter review of this on September 17, 2011, so I moved all my new comments there (and removed the extra posting).  It seemed that this account was longer than the earlier one and included more detail from the journalist. You can find it with the label "unusual criminal cases".

Also, CNN, on AC360, aired a shortened version of "TWA Flight 800", reduced from 90 minutes to one hour, reviewed here on the "Films on Major Threats to Freedom" blog Jan/ 4, 2014.

On Sunday, the President's weekly video address after NBC's "Meet the Press" did not mention the crash, but mentioned paid family leave and loosening immigration.

Map of Malaysiam Airlines crash site on Wikipedia, credit link, 

Friday, July 18, 2014

"NY Med" on ABC: saving lives, up close

Thursday, the media was preoccupied with the plane crash in the Ukraine, but some of the usual series returned in the evening.  (CNN postponed a new installment in its 60s series about the space race.(  I finally watched an episode of “NY Med”, link here.  I have to say that this show was more explicit in showing actual surgical procedures than any I have ever seen. The show reminds me of "Code Black" (movie reviews, July 12).  
One patient was a personable homeless man, white, needing to have two spinal fragments fused, less he have another accident and risk becoming quadriplegic.  But the operation itself posed a small risk of making him paralyzed.  He had missed one operation already because he had violated the “nothing to eat or drink” rule after midnight.  I remember that after I broke my hip, that whole morning in the University of Minnesota hospital, and then the long wait before they finally took me to the OR (this was back in January 1998).  You don’t know when you go under.  You just wake up. Since he was indigent, New York Medicaid MMIS would come into play.
Two young adults needed heart surgery;  one had already had six operations.
Another young man was being revived by defibrillation, to reset his heart rhythm; almost his entire chest was covered by pads.
NY Med has been covered on ABC Nightline before.  The episodes appear to take place at New York Presbyterian.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fox gives me a good look of Target Field by carrying the All Star Game from Minneapolis (where I lived 1997-2003)

Fox carried the All Star Game Tuesday night, and showed off the new Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. 
I lived in Minneapolis, in the Churchill Apartments (the outside of which appeared in the broadcast) from 1997-2003.  I would go to games at the Metrodome, got to be a movie extra (“Major League 3”) holding my authored book in 1997 there.  I was called the “homer dome” and in the 1991 World Series fans had their “homer hankies”.   But everyone complains about the new stadium as too hard for hitters to hit homers in, even though the field approximates the Metrodome dimensions.  The 23-foot right field wall extends to the 403-sign.  But it is just 328 down the right field line, and there is a balcony that juts of some the field that would shorten the distance a lot (in a fashion that resembles Polo Grounds). 

In Boston, the left field wall is 37 feet high, and although just 305 feet down the line, but the high wall extends into center field, to about 390 feet.  In old Griffith Stadium in Washington, the right field wall as 31 feet, and 320 down the line, but 438 in right center.
A lot of line drives hit the right field wall last night (although none hit the jetty overhang).  Except for Mike Trout, batters had trouble making them doubles.  Cabrera did hit a homer to left (339 feet) off Wainwright in the first inning,
Derek Jeter played his last All Star game and opened by rolling an opposite field double into the right field corner. Jeter was interviewed in the second half of the game.
There is a lot of talk that MLB run production is down.  There is talk of lowering the pitcher’s mound, or limiting the ability of managers to change pitchers in late innings just to set up hitters. 
There is also talk that talent is too thin.  Remember how there was talk of contracting the Twins, and Expos (now the Nationals) in 2001?  A new stadium (outdoors, in Minneapolis) saved the franchise.
Weather was good last night after a “cold front”, 68 degrees and perfectly clear skies at game time. 
Tyler Clippard filled in for the Nats (for the injured Jordan Zimmermann) and retired Cabrera on a fly.
The American League won, 5-3, which means the AL champion will have home field advantage in the World Series (which could be Baltimore and Washington). 
As for the spreading of talent, I think it’s out there.  MLB’s emphatic policy on ending sexual orientation discrimination may help add to the talent pool;  I do know a couple of people who might have played. 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Target Field with downtown Minneapolis in background. The Field is in the Industrial warehouse district, about three blocks west of Hennepin Ave (which has the bars and discos like the Gay 90s and Saloon).
I also remember the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, torn down to make room for the Mall of America.  I went to a game there in 1973 when working for Univac.  Tony Oliva amd Harmon Killebrew played then.  The oldest Washington Senators became the Twins in 1961, the year I graduated from high school – even though the Senators had a decent year in 1960.  

As for ballparks, remember that a critical scene in the ABC series “Flash Forward” was shot in Comerica Park in Detroit.  
Bud Selig talked about the 1994 baseball strike, which resulted in no World Series that year.

Monday, July 14, 2014

"The Strain": Yes, New York City and maybe the whole country has gone, "thmooth"

I had seen the previews of the new FX series “The Strain” by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan in theaters a few times.  I thought the premise sounded silly, on the surface. But I tried the 98-minute pilot (“Night Zero”) last night.

The idea that an international flight lands in New York with everyone dead (except four people) is intriguing. You could do something with this beginning.  But we all know the premise.  A parasitic worm transmits a virus to people that seems to kill them, but in the morgues they turn into vampires.  Pretty soon a whole city (New York) will be gone. 

There’s some other diversions.  A CDC epidemiologist (Corey Stoll) finds work more compelling than his counseling sessions to get custody of his daughter.  And a holocaust survivor (David Bradley) who operates a pawn shop in Harlem knows how to handle burglars, but seems to be growing a blob in his back room, reading crawl out of the woodwork.  He knows what’s up, and rushes out to the airport. 

The vampires do undergo physical transformations.  One is the loss of all hair.  Episode 3 will be called “Gone Smooth” which might be better titled “Gone thmooth”.  Death is no longer a release.  But maybe it never was. 

The idea of a novel virus is itself fertile.  In my own manuscript, “Angel’s Brother”, I propose that a virus could contain a tiny radioactive core with a microscopic black hole that can transmit identities to other people. 


The official Fox site is here

Sunday, July 13, 2014

On CNN, John Walsh premiers his new series "The Hunt" to track down fugitives from justice

Sunday night, July 13, 2014, CNN aired the first episode of a new series by John Walsh, “The Hunt”, which will focus on fining fugitives from justice for committing notorious violent crimes. Wa;sh described the show as a series of manhunts. 
Walsh entered the victims advocacy business after he lost his own son to a crime in 1981.  The main link for the series is here.

The episode tonight focused on Shane Miller, who is believed to have killed his wife and two daughters in Shasta County in far northern California.

He may have been hiding out and living in the wilds anywhere between Shasta and the northern CA coast, with communities like Petrolia and Garberville. 

At the end, Walsh suggested that the suspect should take his own life if he would not turn himself in.

I have vacationed in the area a few times, in 1975, 1978 and 1985.  Mount Shasta is in the area, as are a some new age and intentional communities. Most of the area to the interior is not forested and is covered with lava formations, buttes and ridges.   It would be easy to hide in the coastal area but not further inland.   
Update: August 3, 2014:

CNN reports now that Shane Miller's body has been recovered in the Petrolia area.  It was found by a hiker. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

NBC Dateline examines the Chanin Starbuck murder in northeastern WA

Tonight, NBC Dateline re-aired, on “Dateline,” the 2-hour Saturday Night Mystery, “A Cold December Morning”, about the murder of Chanin Starubuck in Deer Park, WA (near Spokane), Dec. 1, 2011. Keith Morrison reports.   

Her former husband, Clay, is convicted at the end of the episode.

But the investigation was made interesting by computer forensics, particularly chat room records of her desire to find other men.  A teacher and an auto salesman were also suspects for a while, partly because of social media messages.

A typical link describing the episode is here.   The court did not allow evidence based on Chanin’s online activity to be presented, as impugning a defendant’s reputation, but possibly interfering with the opportunity of the defense to produce reasonable doubt.  Overall, the case shows the risks of misuse of social media in pursuing dates or sexual partners, particularly in the “traditional marriage” heterosexual world.

Wikipedia attribution link for scene near Spokane 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

"Extant": Halle Berry is a match for Ripley. and may be carrying "Rosemary's Baby"

Extant”, created by Mickey Fisher, premiered on CBS Wednesday night (July 9)  with a pilot called “Reentry”.

The series starts with domestic scenes back on Earth.  Halle Berry plays the astronaut (more or less in “Ripley’s shoes”), having returned from thirteen months in space, alone. 

One problem with this pilot is that there are at least three “anomalies” that don’t necessarily add up, but that’s like my having more than one catastrophe in the “Ocelot” story in my DADT-3 book.  As the pilot opens, Berry is throwing up, and it’s obvious quickly that she’s pregnant (a touch of “Rosemary’s Baby” already).  He attentive husband John (Goran Visnjic, who seems a bit sterile and stiff in the role) scolds their perfect son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon).  It turns out that Ethan is more than just a perfect aspie;  he’s a robot manufactured to be human and to develop a soul – that is, if the soul (and capacity for free will) is nothing more than a sum of recorded experiences. 

The second problem is that there are about 13 hours missing from the logs of Berry’s trip.  And they’ve made Ethan as an AI (very much as in the 2001 film from Spielberg) because she’s infertile.  Well, somebody must have been with Berry during those 13 hours. 

We’re introduced to another astronaut (Sergio Harford), as his hairless body is scrubbed, and we see flashbacks that suggest what has happened.  So, if she has conceived a baby from another robot, the future of humanity would change. It’s all rather obvious.

At the very end, a mystery person, a burly white man (Harmon Kryger), appears in the dark. That’s problem three.

The official site from CBS is here. Will this one hold an audience? 

Picture: Huntsville, AL (May 2014 trip). 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

"The Last Ship" on TNT: a Naval Ship escapes a pandemic, but not the Russians

“The Last Ship”, on TNT, supposes that a mystery pandemic has killed most of the world’s population.  The crew of a US Naval Ship, the USS Nathan James, is unaffected as two civilian virologists (Rona Miltra and Sam Spruell), claiming to study birds, get on board, in the Pilot (Phase Six).  But soon the commander (Eric Dane) has to deal with the Russians, and then Al-Qaeda at Gitmo (in “Welcome to Gitmo”) and then the Russians again in “Dead Reckoning”.  It seems that Vladimir Putin and ISIS are playing on the same side, just as in the Cold War.

The series is based on a novel by William Brinkley.
The writing and action are rather genre and stereotypical, Michael Bay’s involvement notwithstanding.  This series seems to be developing along the lines of a “Noah’s Ark” story (but then, so does the movie “Snowpiercer”).  

A major flu pandemic would spread by air to all continents quickly, but it might be that people left on cruise ships or military vessels, or on space stations or in remote locations could survive.  I wonder if this idea is present in Luc Descamps’s new thriller “Floating”, said to be in development (with his son Timo). 
This series so far gets a “Dear Russia” video. 

The TNT website is here.   The series had started June 22.  

Friday, July 04, 2014

CNN: "Buried Secrets: Who Killed the McStay Family?"

Recently, CNN has aired a special documentary “Buried Secrets: Who Killed the McStay Family”, with best descriptive link here. The family left its home on February 10, 2010 (50 miles north of San Diego) and disappeared.  Remains of the family were found four years later in the Mojave Desert by a biker, near Victorville. Joe McStay had run a custom water fixture business.
A checklist from station KTLA asks several key questions about the case here.  The sheriff’s department allowed others to clean the home after the family had disappeared.  There is a question about a missed call from their cell phone shortly after the disappearance.  And their home computer had been used (or hacked) a week before the disappearance, and there is a bizarre subplot about the family’s being seen on the Mexic an border.
An investigative journalist (Steph Watts) joined the effort.  The Sheriff’s department had believed they had gone to Mexico and was lax on cordoning off the house and investigation.
At the end, the report concluded, “this is like the first act of a play.  Three more acts have yet to be written.” It's rather unusual for news networks to air unsolved cases with so many unanswered questions. 
Update: Nov. 7

Police made an arrest in the case Wed. Nov. 5, CNN story here.

The picture is from a park near I-5 halfway between LA and San Diego (May, 2012, personal trip).   

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

HBO's "The Leftovers": A "Sudden Departure" is not necessarily "The Rapture of the Believers"

I caught up with HBO’s Pilot (72 min) for “The Leftovers” (by Peter Berg) late last night on HBO GO, after returning from a trip.
I had been intrigued by the idea of a series based on the possibility of the Rapture (as in the 1992 movie), or perhaps the “Left Behind” movies, and I knew that religious theology itself would get left behind.
As the Pilot opens, a young woman pulls up to a strip mall parking spot with her baby wailing in a car seat  (properly strapped in) in the back.  The crying stops.  The mother gets out, and there’s no baby.  Sirens go off.  Auto accidents happen. 

But then the Pilot shifts to three years later.  We learn that it is set in a Hudson River town of Mapleton, NY.  The people are dealing with the sudden loss of 2% of the population, with no explanation, from either science or religion.
Now, I personally think that when something traumatic happens, it’s a lot more interesting to cover the news story as it happens.  How would CNN have covered it that day?  Presumably this happened everywhere.   I had the same objection to the strategy of “Revolution”, and I thought that the concepts behind “The Event” and “Flash Forward” worked a lot better because the series took the audience through the unfolding of the news as it happened.
The plot threads seem ambiguous. There is a troubled sheriff (Justin Theroux), a pastor (Christioler Eccleson), lots of undisciplined teenagers (who play a dangerous game of spin the bottle with a smart phone), and a cult called the Guilty Remnant.  The town plans to have a commemoration of the three year anniversary of the event (it’s a Saturday October 14, but the leaves haven’t changed yet) , but the cult, comprising chain-smoking members, mostly women, in white, stages a demonstration of the sort you expect to see from Westboro Baptist Church.  The other curious plot thread is “all about animals”, as if from a dream.  There’s a rogue deer that likes to interfere with driven cars (I’ve seen these on Highway 60 south of St. Peter MN myself one time), until a pack of wolves descends on the deer, right at the end of the episode.

I’d rather see more about how people would cope with the implications of such an event.  Could another Rapture occur?  Remember the promise “There’s going to be another blackout” that keeps “Flash Forward” moving?  I don’t pick that up here.
Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta discuss “The Sudden Departure” in an interview on HBO, here.   They talk about a Chief Anomaly and a Brandenburg Carousel.  Maybe these could get interesting if they really crawled out of the woodwork. (Note: the original video went private; replaced in 12/2015/)


It isn’t hard to imagine another idea, that those who departed will return, maybe as proxies – but then we have something like “Resurrection.” 

Picture (mine): near Great Neck, NY, Long Island north shore (June 30).

July 6, 2014

Vox media has a perspective on the show from Brandon Ambersino that is interesting, here