Friday, February 28, 2014

Don Lemon hosts report on Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative on CNN

At 11 PM Thursday night, CNN aired a one hour special by anchor Don Lemon on President Obama’s initiative “My Brother’s Keeper”. CNN’s link for the special is here. It aired right after CNN's TCM film "And the OSCAR Goes to" (Movies blog, Feb. 27). 
  
The President’s own link at the White House site is here.  
 
The president seems to single out certain men of color (Black, and non-white Hispanic, but not Asian and not from India).  Really, he could have talked about all men growing up in disadvantaged homes (like rural whites as in Appalachia).  He gave alarming statistics of how many black teens wind up with police records and how many do not have fathers.  The president said that he missed having a father but that his own home was forgiving.  He seemed to be hinting that some minority men are taught to use violence to resolve problems, because it is used on them, sometimes in the home.  (Curiously, Reid Ewing’s first “Reid-ing” video “It’s Free” ends with a discussion with another actor where they comment about this problem in low-income homes;  see movies blog, May 13, 2013, toward the end of the posting;  I think the president might have seen this.)

  
Don Lemon, himself African-American and gay,  created a stir with his own take last fall when he suggested that black men needed to “pull up their pants” and not view themselves as “victims” of inequality. That’s pretty much the “Southpark” take emphasizing personal responsibility as a value.   Nevertheless, it’s possible that “inequality” conveys the impression that the rules of civilization are meaningless because they don’t apply to everyone.  Young men in dysfunctional families don’t learn the cognitive skills to recognize consequences of actions or to see the eventual benefit of following the rules.  They don’t learn how to compete in a more intellectual and cognition based world.
  
Other young men around the world learn incentives for crime in other ways.  In Russia, plenty of teens have the talent to make a good living in the west, but their own society does not pay enough for legitimate technology work and Putin’s government even encourages their using computer crime to steal from westerners.  
  
Social conservatives will say that permissive sexual values and the declining role of traditional marriages leads low-income men to abandon their children.  Why can’t we hold them more responsible for their own behavior? 






Thursday, February 27, 2014

HBO's "The Sopranos": when gangsters get empathy

Well, finally, I watched some of HBO’s over-popular series “The Sopranos”, created by David Chase.  A lot was said about it when James Gandolfini passed away.
  
I enjoyed “The Godfather” movies when they came out; I think I saw the first one in New York City, maybe at the Ziegfield. 
  
Is the life of a mobster good fodder for comedy?  Well, to get audience ratings and make money, I guess so.
The series is shot in northern New Jersey. I lived there in 1972-1974, but I don’t recall where the falls are. 
  
In the Pilot in 1999, Tony Soprano talks about his life as a crime boss  (in the “Waste Management” business) and family protector to a female therapist after he was hospitalized for passing out in a panic attack at a family barbecue, almost  starting a fire.  She warns him that, despite doctor-patient confidentiality, she would have to report anything about murders or crimes to authorities.  That point was often made in 2012 after the James Holmes shootings in Aurora, CO (but other therapists had told me back in the 1960s that this is not true.)  Other funny things happen:  there are ducks in the family pool, and his mother resists being put in assisted living (not a nursing home).  She says women take better care of their parents than men. (The series opened the year of my mother’s coronary bypass surgery).   
  
He talks about how people will settle with the government to avoid “penal exposure”, and later he talks about a dream where his instrument falls off, and a bird (a pelican, or a duck) carries it away, as if he were Bobbitt.  Organized crime seems to be all about the Darwinian aspects of reproduction.   The mob is no longer recession proof.
  
There are plenty of flashbacks of mob violence, made funny.
  
The second and third episodes are called “46 Heat” and “Denial, Anger, Acceptance”.  Maybe in the early days the DMCA, DVD players were a hot commodity.
  
  
HBO’s site is here

Picture: where I lived in Caldwell, NJ, 1972-1973. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Piers Morgan interviews plaintiff in "fiction libel" case about "The Wolf of Wall Street"; but this show is soon to be cancelled by CNN

Piers Morgan’s interview show is reported to have been cancelled by CNN, and may end as soon as March, according to this report
  
The show has reported low ratings, and some viewers have been irritated by his “moralistic” harping on gun control, with constant comparisons to Britain and Australia.

Nevertheless, his recent interviews regarding the film “The Wolf of Wall Street”, first of a somewhat humbled and plain Jordan Belfort, and now with Andrew Greene, who is suing Paramount and parties associated with the film for libel and defamation.

Greene says that the character Nicky Koskoff is based on him.  He was played by P.J. Byrne in the film and called “Rugrat” but was called “Wigwam” in real life.
  
Greene says that he never joined in on the wild behavior show in the film, and that the film greatly exaggerates what went on.  He was an IT and business lead analyst with largely technical responsibilities as were common in the information technology workplace in large financial companies in the 1990s.
  
  
The full post is here.  It’s interesting that Rugrat holds the shears while a woman’s head is shaved in one scene.
  
Greene says that his reputation and relationships were ruined, but some have suggested that it is the publicity over the suit that would affect his reputation.
   

It is possible to libel someone in fiction, even when names are changed.  There is a practical question as to whether people are likely to recognize someone who seems to resemble a character who is unfavorably portrayed, in a way that the person’s life is affected.  That may me more likely today in the world of online reputation, although even a name change reduces the risk that the person can be searched.  (Remember, truth is an absolute defense to libel in the US, but not always in the UK.) In the word-of-mouth pre-Internet days, the problem became well known with lawyers.   There was a famous case in California, “Bindrim v. Mitchell” in 1979, based on the novel “Touching”.  There was one case where someone was almost prosecuted for a “threat” made in “fiction”.  The “Bill Boushka” blog, label “fiction legal risks” accounts for a number of these cases.  New York State may not be as friendly to plaintiffs in this sort of case as is California (with a more sensitive idea of reputation), as in the case Springer v. Viking Press.  Some of the older cases are discussed in “The Writer’s Lawyer” by Ronald L. Goldfarb and Gail E. Ross (Times books, 1989).  

Monday, February 24, 2014

HBO's "Game of Thrones": fantasy for the novice, maybe (and a good model for what another world could really be like)

I finally rented the first two episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, from 2011, as created by David Benioff and B.D. Weiss. 
  
Most viewers know that the series was adopted from a series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, “A Song of Fire and Ice”, of which the first is called “A Game of Thrones”.  The Pilot was called “Winter Is Coming” (or “Winterfell”), and the second was “The Kingsroad”.
  
Each DVD episode opens with a visual map of the entire fantasy universe of the Seven Kingdoms, well made with technie models.  You fly over what could be a model railroad layout, except that there are no trains, but lots of waterways.  The most interesting feature seems to be “The Wall” (any reference to the West Bank?) beyond which lies The North, which sounds analogous now to Putin’s Russia, particularly Siberia, filled with as many demons as people. 
  
In fact, the structure of the “world” reminds one of what one might find on a tidally locked planet, where one side is toward its sun, and the dark side is always cold (although more recent studies suggest such planets may have more even climates than had been supposed because of wind currents). 
  
The series seems to have a lot of nudity and violence – plenty of decapitations, with swords, which seem merciful (hint).  There’s a curious scene in the prologue where shirtless young men are getting haircuts.  Some of the feast scenes are fabulous.  These people seem to live well without electricity.
  

The series has prompted debate on Hollywood handles the piracy issue and releases popular showsto various media.  

HBO's site is here

Picture: from Ireland (Travel Expo in Washington). 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Can East-coasters get Tonight Show Fallonvntion tickets? Will Jimmy use No-No?

Jimmy Fallon premiered on the NBC  Tonight Show, moved back to the Big Apple, on President’s Day. The show has been running for one hour starting right at midnight, EST.
  
It appears that if you want to go to it live, you have to go to a taping session at 5 PM many weekdays. (If you come by Amtrak, allow for delays.)  If you look at the calendar, the sessions for complimentary tickets are “sold out” for many days in advance, but the link is here.. No one person may attend more than once in any six month period.  I don’t know if it helps if you know one of the guests.
  
Here’s the site for Fallonventions, link
  
Fallon had a long receiving line Monday night, including Rudy Guliani, before settling down with Will Smith.
  
  
I’ve got to say that Seinfeld is starting to get older.

Bradley Cooper graced the show Wednesday night with his perfection. .
  
The set has a model of midtown Manhattan behind, and I wonder if it was made from Lego toys.
  

Brian Williams announced the show Monday night on NBC Nightly News, and oddly promised there would be a chest waxing session.  Hasn’t happened yet.  But remember what happened to Troy McClain on “The Apprentice” in 2004?  He made his sacrifice “for the team.” 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Generation Like" on PBS Frontline

PBS Frontline aired an episode “Generation Like” on Feb. 18, and described an entire new ad economy based on “Likeonomics”, particularly among teenagers.
  
The link is here

The documentary says that in 2001, the technique was totally different.  Companies had to troll teens to get them to share.  Now, with social media (most of all Facebook), kids want to. 

The program referred to a promotional company in LA called “The Audience” (link) and a 2005 earlier Frontline broadcast, “The Merchants of Cool.”
  
   
Companies (such as Trident gum – which you can’t chew in class anyway) promote teens’ Facebook profiles and YouTube channels when they become sufficiently popular.  A few teens, such as Tyler Oakley in northern New Jersey, have turned these into little media businesses.  The concept is becoming a “professional fan” whose YouTube channel draws visitors who will see the corporate ads. 
   
There have been some serious problems, however, with fake likes or “Like farms”, just as has happened with link farms and spam associated with them.
   
The film showed teens socializing in the real world (in New Jersey and LA segments).  That’s important to getting popular enough.  It’s harder if you’re 70. 
    
I practice a bit of this.  My Movie Reviews blog draws DVD and private Vimeo screeners from companies in the independent film market (but no big Hollywood studios blanketing the shopping mall multiplexes with kids movies).  My market is mostly LGBT (especially surrounding the recent repeal of DADT, free speech issues, government surveillance, (the Snowden and Wikileaks stuff)  and even some actual national security. 

You can watch the program on YouTube for $1.99, but it is free on PBS Broadcast.  

Other comparisons: Rohit Bhargava's "Likeonomics" (Book reviews, Dec. 19, 2012), and the film "Us Now" (Movies blog, Feb. 20, 2014).  

Picture: Montclair, NJ, 2011 (mine) 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

CBS series "Intelligence": superpowers from nanobots, and also a deadly "contagious" mechanical infection

I have to chuckle at the new CBS series “Intelligence”, created by Michael Seitzman, inspired by the book “Phoenix Island” by John Dixon.
  
Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway) becomes the latest super-hero, with a smartphone chip implanted into his brain.  His powers come  at a bodily price; it’s a good thing that he’s smooth, because he has to wear Holter monitoring equipment all the time on his chest.
  
I checked the episode Feb. 17, “Size Matters”, where a new epidemic breaks out, where nanobots are the infecting agents.  This is a “mechanical infection” rather than “biological infection”.  We’ve seen this idea before, in series ranging from “Jake 2.0” (2003, just one fall season on UPN) and now “Revolution” on NBC
  .
This time, there’s a terrorist mailing yellow packages; opening them and touching them can lead to infection.  There’s also a manifesto, embedded in some cursive writing (into the letters themselves) included with the packages.  This sounds a bit like the Unabomber, except that the contents of the manifesto sound more broadly reasoned, about sustainability and the possibility of a sudden world catastrophe (through EMP, for example).  In fact, it sounds like “my” Do Ask, DoTell books.  Should I feel flattered?
  
  
Dr. Cassidy (who had been kidnapped by the Chinese for espionage in the Pilot), John Billingsley, intervenes, and seems to be a father figure to the rogue young man.  He gets “infected” and nearly bleeds out through his nose, as if having Ebola.  It’s as if the show split me into two characters.
  
The link for the series is here

The writing seemed a bit stereotyped and haphazard.  The series had originally been scheduled for February 2014 but was moved up to January 7.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chris Cuomo grills George Zimmerman on CNN New Day

Chris Cuomo gave George Zimmerman a riveting interview early Monday morning on CNN New Day, and most of it was rebroadcast repeatedly throughout the day.
  
“Do you regret having killed Trayvon Martin. It’s a simple question.”   
  
  
I had trouble following any real logic in Zimmerman’s comments.  He sees himself as a victim. He says he was having his head based in by Trayvon.  But he does say that if he could get into a time machine and change history, he would have stayed home that night.
  
His painting is interesting.  There’s anger in his art, but so there is in most people’s.  How often do you find painters who also prize-fight?
  
The link for the interview is here

Cuomo, although a social liberal, is an incredibly tough interviewer when getting his subjects to explain their actions,  Remember the grilling he gave Amanda Knox?
  
Cuomo has said that Zimmerman’s case may be more defensible legally than Michael Dunn’s in Jacksonville, where CNN aired the verdict live Saturday night. 




Sunday, February 16, 2014

CNN airs HBO's "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory", detailed documentary series about the West Memphis Three; also Sabine, TX murder on AC360

CNN is re-airing HBO’s lengthy series on the “West Memphis Three”, called “Paradise Lost”.  The first film was called “The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills”, the second was “Revelations” and the last is “Purgatory”. 
  
That is, the film aired on February 16, 2014 is “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”, running 2-1/2 clock hours. The directors are Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

Compared to the Sony film “West of Memphis (Movies blog, January 25, 2013), this film gave much more time to interviewing the three wrongfully convicted men, especially Echols, as well as the father of one of the boys.

The film seemed to stress the need for forgiveness on both sides, and the idea that living in a free democratic society causes some essential risk to everyone of wrongful convictions.

The father of one of the victims has to deal with having ranted his own hate when he finds out that the conviction was compromised,  The documentary also shows how the media played up the occult cult idea in the 1990s.
    
Yet, the State of Arkansas was unwilling to allow new trials based on DNA findings that could not have been made in 1994.  Furthermore, the police work in 1993 was incomplete, and seemed predicated on pressuring a mentally disabled young man to confess and implicate the others.

The film ends with the showing of the Alford Plea.

The documentary also covered the defamation lawsuit by Terry Hobbs against Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, story here. (There was a film “The Dixie Chicks: Shut up and Sing” from The Weinstein Company in 2006.)

HBO offers a bonus scene on YouTube:


HBO’s site is here
  
The broadcast was followed by an AC360 special report, “Cover UP? A Mysterious Death in Texas”, about the death of Alfred Wright in Sabine County (in the swampy SE part of the state), after he disappeared after visiting a liquor store, with unclear surveillance evidence.  The idea of putting a dime on someone’s bed to send a warning to keep quiet is indeed chilling. Who knows the "family bed"?  The link is here. The documentary talked about meth labs in the area. 

 Wikipedia attribution link for Mississippi River picture. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Moscow Is Burning": ABC Nightline reports on anit-gay vigilantism near Moscow's largest gay club, the Central Station, while the Winter Olympics go on

Friday night, Valentine’s Day, ABC Nightline aired a disturbing 20-minute report about anti-gay vigilantism in Russia, called “Moscow Is Burning”.  Terry Moran reported.  The title seems like an ironic recast of the name of the 1966 Paramount film "Is Paris Burning?", but here there is no liberation from what looks like fascist oppression. 
  
The report started with a quick shot of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi (800 miles south of Moscow).  Since ABC does not have the contract to cover the Olympics directly (that belongs to NBC, a former employer of mine), it is in a perfect position to call attention to the horrific situation of many LGBT people across Russia, making an ugly smear on Russia’s show for the worldwide event.
  
Specifically, the report concerned Moscow’s largest gay nightclub, the Central Station (a common name for gay clubs around the world), and the escalation of attacks against the property and its patrons since November 2013, after the Russian “anti-gay propaganda law” had been in effect since June.
  
The ABC report seems to have been motivated by the British Channel 4 documentary “Dispatches: The Hunted”, reviewed here Sunday Feb. 9, but this time if focuses almost entirely on the attacks against the club. One of the attempts to invade the club was filmed real-time by ABC News.
  
The disco is in a brick warehouse-like building, with now heavy security. 

The Huffington Post had already reported on a gas (hydrogen sulfide) attack on the club here.  
  
  
The documentary depicted it as a haven for gay people in an increasingly hostile environment. Indoors, drag queens perform as is common in many clubs. 
  
However, at least one of the managers and major performers will be moving to the US, and there is mention of political asylum.  It seems quite likely that the club will close, but that wasn't entirely clear in the report.
    
The Russian law in practice makes it impossible for gays to “fight back with speech”, and many hooligans have taken it as a condoning attacks on gays.
  
Moran interviewed police who were watching the bar, and seemed to be filming people going and leaving.  One cop said that this was a matter not only of legality (since Russia ended its sodomy law in 1993) but morality, a strange comment.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Moscow aerial view.
  
ABC also talked to some of the attackers, from the Russian Orthodox “Army of God”, and to an extremely vehemently anti-gay legislator.  The politician said that such clubs should not be allowed to exist.  The gang members could not really give a lucid explanation for their hatred, other than they seemed to be following what someone else’s moral code expected them to do.
  
As had the British documentary, the ABC report emphasized that Russian “proles” believe that male homosexuality and pedophilia are intrinsically connected, as this idea has been promoted by politicians.  In fact, two hours earlier, ABC had aired, on its 20-20 series, a report about an young woman prosecuted for an illegal relationship with another underage girl.  It is unfortunate that both reports aired in close succession (interrupted by news and Jimmy Kimmel) on the same night, Valentine’s Day.  That seems like pouring gasoline at least near a flame.  It would have been more appropriate to air the Nightline on a different night (20-20 is fixed on Friday).   
  
But a deeper reading of the Russian homophobia problem suggests that common people in Russia (and in many countries with lower incomes or economic difficulties) believe that if homosexual behavior is viewed as permitted, many young adults will decide not to have children because of the economic sacrifices, and the country has an aging population and deeply failing birthrate.  That is a curious contrast to China with its “one child” policy. In authoritarian cultures, reigning in on individual personality differences seems like a way to force everyone to share in the risks of guaranteeing “the people” a future.  Of course, politicians abuse it. 
  
Neither report paid much heed to AIDS, or what people who acquire HIV in Russia especially through sex (and often gay male sex) do.  It sounds unlikely that patients have access to modern anii-retroviral protease inhibitors that have been so successful in the West.


Friday, February 14, 2014

ABC 20-20 "Crossing the Line":: leaglly troubling case of an underage relationship between teens in FL

ABC 20-20, on Valentine’s Day, aired a segment “Crossing the Line”, about people taking liberties with the law.

The first report concerned an 18 year old girl, Kaitlyn Hunt, who developed an intimate relationship with a girl 14, whom she met on the high school basketball team, in Sebastian FL.  When rumors about the relationship reached the younger girl’s parents, they went to the sheriff. The link for the story is here

The older girls’ parents were supportive, and claim that the prosecution and the other girl’s parents were going after her because the relationship was lesbian. 

However, in Florida there has been at least one case where a female teacher was prosecuted for a relationship with a 14 year old male student.
  
Hunt raised a defense fund in the gay community, and actually went to NYC Pride.  But she wound up in jail for violating bail by texting the other girl. 
  
She at first refused a plea bargain, claiming she was not guilty, notwithstanding the law.  Eventually she took one which let her out on home detention and parole after four months.  It is not clear from the report whether this would result in sex offender registration. But in many states it might.

In general, states have varying ages of consent. (chart), 18 in Florida (16 or 17 in many states).  A teenager over the age of consent may not think about the fact that a younger partner is below legal age.  "Romeo and Juliet" laws sometimes (in a few states) reduce the offense based on difference in age.  There was a heterosexual case in Georgia where a 17 year old in an Atlanta suburb went to prison for a relationship with a 15 year old girl. And circumstances that even lead to reporting of the offense seem capricious and unpredictable, and could be hard to prove.    
       
One of the episodes of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” was filmed in Fort Myers FL (on the Gulf Coast)..  Also, former gay TV reporter Bill Kamal served five years in federal prison after being caught in a sting in South Florida when agreeing to meet someone he met in an AOL chatroom in a 7-11, as in this story.. Kamal’s interview no longer seems to be there. But I have read it before, and the circumstances of his arrest do seem ambiguous and troubling, if viewed objectively.
   
The second part of the report tonight concerned speeding police officers, including a tragic case in Connecticut where two teens were killed by a collision with a speeding off-duty police car.
  
The third part of the report concerned a San Antonio, TX teacher who apparently impulsively decided to goad students to hit a class bully. The teacher would be prosecuted for a major misdemeanor and do some jail time. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Sebastian FL town hall, somewhat north of W Palm Beach (which I have visited in the 1950s, in 1970, 1986, and 2004).  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

NatGeo: "Hunt for Somali Pirates" supplements "Captain Phillips"

National Geographic’s 2011 documentary “Hunt for Somali Pirates” certainly complements the film “Captain Phillips” (Movies blog, Oct. 11, 2013).  Narrated by Erik Thompson, it focuses on the Navy Seal underwater and sniper training and the set up to end the kidnapping incident (the kidnapping of Captain Phillips from the Maersk Alabama by teenage Somali pirates in April, 2009).  The link for the documentary (available on Netflix, running 43 minutes, is (website url)  here

The film notes that the Somali village elders washed their hands of the teenage pirates after they got caught.
The film showed the Basic Underwater Demolition Training (BUDTS), and the Seal sniper training, but 70% even of the Seals fail the training.
  
  
The SEAL sniper team stayed in sitting position on the Bainbridge for 18 hours before taking out three of the four pirates.  The boat was 40 yards away, but bobbing the water, and the pirates could be shot through the plexiglass.  The remaining hijacker, 18, would be sentenced to 33 years in US prison.
   
The details of the action were monitored by the President, who had to OK the shooting.  This was one of President Obama’s first military challenges (part of what Bob Woodward calls “Obama’s War”).  It probably helped prepare him for taking out Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
  
In US Army Basic, in 1968, we started rifle range on a 25-meter range, and with record range the lowest distance was 50 meters, the longest 350.  I remember the drill sergeant saying “squeeze those rounds off”.  When I was in, at Fort Jackson SC, we trained on an M-14.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of the lifeboat. 

There several other short documentaries on the Somali piracy problem on Netflix.  There is also a serious problem off West Africa, near Nigeria.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

CNN: "Every Day in Cambodia" with Mira Sorvino, about trafficking

On Sunday, February 9, 2014, CNN aired “Every Day in Cambodia”, hosted by Mira Sorvino, acting as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as part of the CNN Freedom Series.  The best descriptive link is here.  Mira calls herself an activist against modern day slavery.

  
She explores a shantytown near Phnom Penh with Don Brewster, who reports he was approached by a pimp on the street to buy young girls, and then went undercover and was almost trapped himself as appearing to police to be a john. He says that almost all young girls in poor communities work as prostitutes to help support their parents. 
  
Remember Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore used to run an initiative, “Real men don’t buy girls.” 
   
Customers can be prosecuted when they return to the United States, according to some State Department travel pages. 
  
The country seems to be living with indirect effects of the old Vietnam war. Pedophiles and pimps are taking advantage of the extreme poverty left in much of the country.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

CNN: "The Power of Vladimir Putin", short film gives a look at his authoritarian mindset

On Sunday afternoon, CNN aired a 30-minute documentary “The Power of Vladimir Putin”, right after Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square show.
  
The film traced his career as a young man.  His self-confidence was increased by taking judo, and pictures show him to have been very attractive when in his 20s, when he went to work for the KGB.
  
  
After the fall of the Soviet Union, whose suddenness shocked everyone (but, then, so did the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989) Putin worked for the mayor of St. Petersburg before finally working himself into a position to be head of state, starting in 1999, after Yeltsin.
   
Putin is said to be mainly concerned about restoring respect for Russia as a great power.  But he seems to have replaced communism with a kind of limited fascism, where he demands the personal loyalty of all Russians, and this is partly behind how he has manipulated anti-gay rhetoric (yesterday’s posting).   


Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Dispatches - Hunted": UK television channel produces frightening documentary about anti-gay vigilantism, "The War Against Gays in Russia", in wake of anti-gay law; now on HBO

Britain’s Channel 4 have created a 43-minute documentary, directed by Ben Steele and narrated by reporter Liz MacKean, “Dispatches: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia” about the explosion of homophobia in Russia, particularly in conjunction with the “antigay propaganda law” passed in June 2013. This is more than just a backlash against western progress in gay marriage and in ending the military ban. 
   
The basic link is here.
  
Early in the film, MacKean interviews a jewelry designer in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) named Timor, who works with a group called “Parents of Russia”.  Timor says “having a wife and child changes your perspective, it make you want to see your country become pure again.”  Later in the film, as Timor plans to disrupt gay pickets, he says, “No, it is not personal, it is about Russia.” But the "purity" certainly invokes memories of Nazism, although he might just mean some sort of collective purpose in lineage that is never questioned. 
   
The documentary, particularly the middle part, covers the vigilante gangs who physically attack men whom they believe to be gay, even trying to out them first.  MacKean films a group of vigilantes who try to entice gay men to come to their apartment for sex.  One man refuses but another comes.  In front of film cameras, they threaten him, although the film doesn’t really show a physical attack. The gangs often post their attacks on the Internet for “sport” and Russian authorities look the other way.
  
MacKean interviews a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, who insists on making an illogical and totally false equivalence of homosexuality and pedophilia. Human Rights Watch spokesperson Tanya Cooper says that the Russian people have been taught to believe in this idea by statist propaganda.
  
The film makes the point that the new “propaganda law” makes it impossible for gays to fight back with public speech.  The laws allow people to picket or leaflet in public (about any issue) only one person at a time, 50 meters apart.

Toward the end, MacKean interviews a teacher, Katya Bogatch, herself straight, who says that the anti-gay law is simply the government’s way to keep the people fighting among themselves so that they don’t challenge the regime’s authority (that is, Putin) and its inability to do much about the economy. It’s noteworthy that Russian teenagers with computer programming skills try to make money through hacking western financial institutions because legitimate employment doesn’t pay enough to support families, and Russia unofficially encourages pilferage of western interests.  It’s also interesting that (according to Wikipedia) possession of child pornography in Russia is not itself illegal.  If Russia is so concerned about protecting its children, why doesn’t it do something about child pornography, which is common in the country?  By way of comparison, China, viewed as even more authoritarian than Russia, is strict on pornography but doesn’t seem to have a vehement anti-gay environment.  It's important to remember also that Russia repealed its sodomy laws in 1993, so homosexual acts among adults in private are technically legal.  
   
When I watched the documentary, I wanted to scream at the people making such illogical statements.  It seems that the regard the presence of “private” homosexuality among adults as an existential threat to the ability of everyone to have children.  Russian leaders have been quoted as using the words “genderless” and “infertile” to characterize the west.  There’s no question that the anti-gay persecution in Russia is related to Putin’s desire to raise the birth rate and increase family size to counter Russia’s declining population.  There is a belief that if “marginal” young men believe that homosexuality is OK, they will decide not to have children.  
  
The film predicts that conditions may get worse after the Sochi Olympics end.   

The Human Rights Campagin posted a review of the film here

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of St. Petersburg.

Check two documentaries about anti-gay problems in Uganda, Oct. 23 ("God Loves Uganda") and Sept. 15, 2013 ("The World's Worst Place to Be Gay").  But now northern Nigeria may be the absolute worst.

Maybe we will see this new film (and the other two) on PBS POV, HBO, or CNN.



Update: Feb. 10

The full documentary that I watched has been suddenly removed by the user.  It had been posted by "Geo A"  on Feb. 7 and attracted over 51,500 views. The image still (as of 5 PM EST Monday)  shows with a search on YouTube, but I suspect it will not show up there much longer.  But I did find another video interview with Liz MacKean, from Britain here. The British journalist refers to the vigilante operation as self-called "Operation Pedophilia" and the undercover ops as "safaris".  In Russian street thinking, there is no distinction between pedophilia and (male) homosexuality, and idea that does not have the support of reputable science.  Note also the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, when the former Soviet Union was considered atheist.

Let's hope that a US group (like PBS) picks this up and airs it soon.  Or else, get a film distributor to show it in theaters and make a DVD.   I'll see what I can do, by networking, to get this film made available in the US.


Update: Oct. 4, 2014

HBO will air a full 60-minute version of the documentary Monday Oct. 6, 2014.  Variety has a review here,   The HBO link is here.

Note:  Feb, 21, 2015

I am told that Channel 4 in Britain is not part of the BBC.  

Friday, February 07, 2014

Winter Olympics: Ceremony of Russian History and Culture, in Sochi

The four-hour Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony of Russian History and Culture in Sochi came off almost perfectly on NBC Friday night (site), except for one snowflake that didn’t expand into the fifth ring.

The entire night skyline of Sochi is bathed in Facbook blue.  So it is inside. 

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Russians’ show was the garish colors, right out of “Toy Story” or the Nutcracker.  On some displays, the dancers looked like aliens, or dolls. 

Another aspect was the impressive aerial work, including various giant white hawks, and a flying train or choo-choo, in the Russian history section showing the “worker’s paradise”.

A third aspect as the CGI work, depicting detailed maps on the ice field, such as a board-game map of Eurasia (as if to play Global Pursuit rather than chess), and later a 3-D (without glasses) rendition of old St. Petersburg, allowing the viewer to believe she is taking a 15-minute trip to the palaces, and then even to the Hermitage or Russian Ark.

For music, some Borodin (a transcription of a string quartet theme), then Alexandrov’s famous Russian State Anthem (played before the intermission in the movie “Reds” in 1982), then most of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” for the history ballet, as well of excerpts from Prokofiev’s “War and Peace”, “Ivan the Terrible”  and “Romeo and Juliet’, then Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker”.


The “Hymn of the Nations” (Verdi) seemed abbreviated, but the ceremony came to a rousing close with the brazen close of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”.  That gets played in gay discos, but don’t tell Putin that.  

Any Mobius strips in the aerial show?

Update: Feb. 9

Does Sage Kotsenburg replace Shaun White in the "charisma department" for winning the Slope Style competition Saturday?  Remember, Shaun is 27 now and a business man, running companies.  Pulling out when you are injured may just mean a sign of maturity, of having grown up and being able to see around corners.  Ask Dr. Phil.


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

PBS American Experience:: "The Amish: Shunned"

Tonight, PBS American Experience aired “The Amish: Shunned”, and traced the experience of seven individuals who tried to leave the Amish culture as young adults. 
   
It was interesting that the people say that they have not been taught to live in freedom, and that the Amish view an authoritarian structure, where people accept what they are told, as necessary to maintain stability and a certain existential kind of fairness.
      
One man left at age 25, and then later he and his wife took in young adults who had left the community, about two at a time.  He was supposed to be banned from the community and his family for life, but jos parents did welcome him back for an 18-hour visit. 

In some scenes, the Amish seemed to have cars, and electricity, but that may be OK if it is locally generated. 
     
   
It’s clear that people experience intimacy and sexuality in this culture as part of a group experience of faith, and it is not a matter of choosing qualities of another person as an individualist sees it.
The main link is here

Picture: downtown York, PA.  A freed housecat was pouncing on a bird on the bank as I took the picture. 

Monday, February 03, 2014

Super Bowl 48: Bruno Mars is closer to Earth than "30 seconds away"; and a fun opening safety

So, what to make of the Super Bowl Event on Fox Sunday night?  I dropped in on a “Front Page” restaurant in Arlington to catch some of it.  I thought it was odd to see a football score of 5-0. 
  
  
It seemed to take a long time to get the half-time show started, and I have to say that the “best” Super Bowl commercial was for Fox’s own “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson, to start March 9. 

The half-time show featured Bruno Mars and his companions, some of whom were heavily tattooed with hairless chests.  It seemed as though they were wearing tattooed-sleeves gift-wrapping (and embalming) their legs.  The entire stadium would light up with various rainbow colors and fireworks. These were not wardrobe malfunctions

There have been reports that these "Chili Peppers" did not really play their banjos and that the instrumental music was actually synced.
   
Mars concluded his presentation with “Just the way you are.”