Monday, June 30, 2014

CNN: "The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez"


CNN has been airing its one hour documentary on the fall of New England Patriots tight-end player Aaron Hernandez (titled “The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez”), who has been barred from the NFL and had most of his pay canceled as a result. 
  
Aaron has been involved in two separate incidents involving murders, and one civil case involving an assault where a man was partially blinded by gunshot.  A common theme in the cases is Hernandez’s conduct in nightclubs, and his tendency to lose his temper over slight accidents or insults, and then possibly chase individuals later. Disagreements over conduct in bars is rather common in my experience, but usually (in my own life) settled by withdrawing from a situation, or sometimes leaving.  Spilled drinks are one thing, but photography is becoming a bigger issue than it used to be. 
  
CNN has a writeup on the cases here and Wikipedia gives some detailed facts on the cancellation of contracts by the Patriots and NFL.
  
   

There are some legal controversies over the ability to find murder weapons, and over the use of circumstantial evidence.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

HLN Forensic series episode warns homeowners about toxic mold (horrible case in TX)


HLN offers a series called “Forensic Investigations”, partly produced by Nancy Grace, that occasionally offers some cautionary tales for ordinary consumers.
  
An episode aired June 28 (probably a repeat) told the story of a couple with a mansion, apparently near Austin, TX, that lost the home as a total loss to toxic mold.  A leak near a refrigerator on in the kitchen was supposedly repaired, but a few months later the husband showed severed memory loss, and the wife became suddenly ill, too.  The wife recovered.  The husband became disabled permanently.  Medical tests eventually showed severe mold poisoning, from a species that is unusually toxic but whose spores are sometimes found in drywall and construction materials.  Cost to repair the home was estimated at $1 million, but Farmers Insurance would not let work begin on time, and eventually the home was a total loss  The couple could not even retrieve clothing, belongings or personal papers from the home.  The couple won a $32 million judgment from the insurance company, and that was eventually reduced by an appeals court to $4 million.
  
Another story concerned a husband who murdered a wife in Highland Park TX (a high income area called the Park Cities in Dallas) with arsenic, after first trying with barium carbonate.

Still another concerned a serial killer who abducted  young women in South Carolina in the mid 1980s and taunted the families with mystery letters and phone calls.  He was eventually caught with an “invisible ink” test that tracked him to a phone number in Alabama, where he had lived as a house sitter.  
  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Barbara Walters debriefs father of perpetrator in recent CA rampage on ABC 20-20


On Friday, June 27, 2014, Barbara Walters (having retired from The View) conducted a very disturbing interview with Peter Rodger, the father of Elliot Rodger, who carried out a rampage on May 23 in Isla Vista, CA (near Santa Barbara), main link here. Walters made about two hours of interview footage and presented about half of it.  Mr. Rodger is the first parent of someone guilty of a rampage to be interviewed on television (Adam Lanza’s father was interviewed by the New Yorker).  The father said this came out of nowhere and that his life was like a "reverse dream".

The interview speaks for itself, and it’s not necessary to go over the details of the event here. 

Mr. Rodger first thought that Elliot was a victim and found out the truth at 4:30 AM the next morning from the Internet.  The sequence of events from his perspective was complicated. 
  
The interview suggests that the rage had built up for several years, but the father had no idea that it would lead where it did.   Elliot was tantalized when he learned about sex, which he felt he could not have, but whose physicality and “vulgarity” shocked him, according to the interview. 

The patterns in some of these cases (Holmes, Lanza, Rodger, and some others) of young men raised in good homes are disturbing, but the media has not really been able to make much sense of it yet.  The Holmes case is the most inexplicable of all. 

I was in Birmingham, AL, taking pictures of a Civil Rights area while this happened;  I heard about it on the TV in Nashville on May 24;  I didn’t really hear the entire story until I tuned in to CNN Sunday night in Tupelo, MS, where I had just looked at tornado damage. 

Maybe there is something to the Vatican idea, that if everyone could restrict all experience of sexuality to marriage with procreation, the world of romance would somehow be “fairer” to the less well off.  But what about personal freedom?  

There's a lot on the web about various developmental and personality issues, including Asperger's and especially narcissistic personality disorder, with the latter being relevant.  It sounds believable that one could develop delusions of grandeur where one believes he is acting like a god punishing and eliminating the wicked or the unworthy (this makes Rodger sound like Hitler to me).  But if sex is evil, as the "manifesto" seems to imply, why does he feel entitled to it anyway.  All "logic" breaks down there.  Only a couple of men who have performed rampages have gotten "manifestos" published (the Unabomber);  in the VA Tech case, a screed document was sent to NBC News but never made public.

On "Days of our Lives" (July 1), the character Daniel Jonas says to Brady "A sociopath is someone who has no feelings beyond his or her own urges".  He's talking about Theresa.  That sounds a bit like Elliot.

Susan L. Ruth, on Communities Digital News, has a perspective that talks about Schizoid Personality Disorder (itself harmless) in conjunction with "Borderline Personality Disorder" here.

It's also useful to compare Asperger's Syndome (a form of "mild" autism") with schizoid personality disroder (which is not), here.

Not many people want to mention this, but it seems likely that Elliot's perception of himself as mixed-race was also significant.  That's not always the case -- it's true of the president, but in some situations it still is.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

CNN: The Sixties: A Long March to Freedom (two hour documentary seems hurried)


CNN continued its series “The Sixties: The Decade that Changed the World” with a two-hour history of the Civil Rights movement, “A Long March to Freedom”, (link) covering the years 1960-1968. 

I wasn’t aware that President Kennedy seemed to keep the distance from this issue that he did.  There were bus rides from Alabama to Jackson, MS, where the federal government allowed the state to arrest and hold demonstrators on charges of threatening the peace, frankly taking into consideration racial feelings at the time.  The early part of the documentary covered the efforts of Bull Connor, essentially the sheriff of Birmingham, AL, to deny blacks their civil rights, especially during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1963.

The film covers the early history of Dr. Martin Luther King, including arrests, and then moves on to account for the March on Washington in late August, 1963.  The documentary did not provide as much detail in covering the event as did some earlier films in 2013, timed with the 50th anniversary of the March.  All of this took the first hour.  Right as the second hour of the program starts, it mentions the Kennedy Assassination, which of course was covered in a different episode.  Lyndon Johnson was at first rather racist behind the scenes and somewhat disparaging in his use of the word “negro”, but after the tragedies of 1964 with the murder of civil rights workers during voter registration education in Mississippi, LBJ began to accept the idea that civil rights legislation was necessary.   The 1964 tragedy is covered in the PBS film “Freedom Summer’ (Movies blog, June 22).


The film moves on to cover the Selma-Montgomery marches in 1965, which were catalyzed by violence.   LBJ pushed for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which some people say conceded the South to the GOP for the next forty years.  


The end of the film makes the point that racism was also common in the north.  Tensions took new turns, as black power movements grew.  Toward the end, the film covers the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 (when I was in Army Basic) and the urban riots that would follow in Washington, Detroit and Chicago.   Detroit seems never to have recovered. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Continuum" on Showcase and SyFy: Richard Harmon's character Julian seems like Danny from "Judas Kiss", the same man


I tried another SyFy series today, sampling “Continuum”, the Canadian time-travel series by Simon Barry.
    
The premise may seem a bit hackneyed by now.  In the Pilot (“A Stitch in Time”), it is 2077, in Vancouver, where corporations have replaced government and the right wing runs a police state.  A group of terrorists from a group called “Liber8” escaped execution through a time machine and go back to 2012, which is modern enough – present day.  A police officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) accidentally accompanies them.   
  
The show, back in 2012, gets interesting, as people try to figure out what is going on (as in “The 4400”).  But a young entrepreneur, Alec Sadler (Eric Knudsen) seems to rival Mark Zuckerberg in his ability to invent things, especially the future technology of time travel.  He lives on a farm, and has a step brother Julian Randol, played by Richard Harmon (wiki ). 
  
In an episode in 2013 (“Revolutions per Minute”, episode 33), Sadler offers Julian a job as a public relations liaison.  We understand that Sadler goes on to be the evil corporateur, and eventually Randol becomes Theseus, the original founder of Liber8.

Richard Harmon plays the younger character with the same kind of beady intensity of the character Danny in the movie “Judas Kiss” (movies, June 4, 2011).   He is a boy with the cunning of a sage, but more reserved at first here than Alec.  In fact, in the two episodes that I watched, he seemed like the same kid, in another (maybe connected) time-travel story.  Indeed, as Judas co-star Timo Descamps said in a funny video, “Richard Harmon is the greatest of all time”.  As he did in an original Smallville episode, he sticks with you. 
Harmon talks about an argument in his family after he has participated in riots:

  
I wonder if the series would work better without the Prologue (telling you it starts in 2077).  There are various theories offered as to how time travel can happen without violating “the time arrow of physics”.
  
The Canadian TV (Showcase) site is here.
   
The individual HD episodes on Amazon cost $2.99 each ($1.99 for standard). One iTunes, episodes before season 3 appear to be free.    

Picture: On top Dolly Sods, W Va, 4000 ft elevation, Aug. 2013, resembles Canada.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

SyFy's "Dominion" series presents a theory about angels, based on the movie "Legion"


The new SyFy series “Dominion”, which premiered last night, deals with angels (like a couple of my screenplays and treatments) but it has a rather silly precept.  25 years in the future, most of the world’s population has been destroyed by “fallen angels” who possessed the bodies of weak people, making them attack others.  Mankind survives inside a walled city called Vega, which looks like today’s Las Vegas.  (Stephen King had called the place “Cibola” in “The Stand”).
   
But to follow the story, you have to be familiar with the 2010 film “Legion”, by Scott Stewart.  I had reviewed that film on my “Films on major threats to freedom” (or “cf”) blog rather than the Movies blog, on Jan. 26, 2010.  A young man born in that film is now the “Chosen One”.  That’s a soldier Alex Lannon (Christopher Egan), who must befriend Michael (Tom Wisdom),  brother of the archangel Gabriel (Carl Beukes).  Michael has sided with humanity (rather like the character Sean, played by Jason Ritter, who doesn’t know he’s an alien in the NBC series “The Event”). 
   
Life in the enclosed city looks opulent, but there are scenes in the barracks where Lannon lives.  Outside, there are silly battles among the angels, who really grow wings (instead of chest hair, perhaps).  At the end of the Pilot, Lannon will find his body (including forearms) tattooed with instructions as to  what he is supposed to do.
 
There's an interesting line early in the Pilot, that the city could well use more children being born. 
   
   
You can visit SyFy’s “Enter Dominion” site here with a video and then a fictitious handbook for citizens, which describes living in an authoritarian state where a social caste system is necessary to protect stability.
   
The Pilot aired twice Thursday night, and the second airing started at the odd time of 10:24 PM (instead of 10:30 as published).  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"The War in Vietnam" on CNN's "The Sixties": I lived through it, on the sidelines but in uniform


CNN continued its series “The Sixties” tonight with the one hour (link) “The War in Vietnam”.
  
The basic take is that the US put in a puppet in South Vietnam in 1963, shortly before Kennedy was assassinated, after rebellionsby Buddhists (and against them) predicated on Kennedy’s Catholicism.  In August 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred, and President Johnson was not meticulous enough for journalistic fact-checking before going in.


McNamara was worried, of course, but he talked his way out of trouble.  He was a salesman, even a huckster.  By early 1965, the war was rapidly escalating.  LBJ is presented as simply sliding down a slippery slope, never getting to decompress. 

Westmoreland joined in the hawkishness, and by mid 1965 (while I worked by first summer job at David Taylor Model Basin in Carderock, MD) Johnson increased the troop commitments on the ground.  He also, saying this  was his sad duty as president, announced an increase of the draft call from 17000 a month to 35000.  It would be 45000 by the end of 1965.  The film points out that there were “escape hatches” – student deferments – and that working class people (and blacks) were more likely to become cannon fodder. But the film doesn’t linger on the moral dilemma.  It also mentions the draft card burnings, as well evasions at the physicals, including false statements of homosexuality (actually, the draft physical stopped "asking" in 1966.)  The draft, after all, had been left over from World War II and Korea.  Kennedy had wanted to exempt married men and then new fathers from the draft, but eventually only students in the sciences got privileged with deferments. 18 year-old's didn't get the right to vote (to save their own lives from the draft) until 1971 (link). 
  
Once built up in Vietnam, US forces used brutal tactics, destroying whole villages and killing civilian women and children to flush out suspected Viet Cong “terrorists”.  US forces found that conventional ground war tactics did not work against a guerilla enemy that could hide in the jungle.
  
I recall that some employees at David Taylor actually objected to the War.  I wrote a letter to my own church from graduate school in Kansas and got back a response, that we had to trust our leadership.  In February 1968, after finishing my MA in Mathematics, I would enter the Army as a “draftee” myself, leading to episodes told in detail in my books and blogs.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NBC Today visits the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley; will open July 8 at Universal Orlando FL


On NBC this morning, “Today’s Take” presented the new attractions at Universal Orlando, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which now has been announced to open Wednesday, July 8, 2014, which comprises Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley (it’s not spelled like “Saigon”), with a train between them (Universal link and video here).  I think there is some Harry Potter infrastructure there now. 

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

The Today staff conducted a two hour show from a replica of old London (I guess that’s the alley).  The train ride is supposed to be something else.  A one day ticket costs $136, but passes for multiday stays and for larger families seem to bring down the cost per person and per day considerably.  It pays to get there an hour early and reserve your place in line with a smart phone app. 

I’m a little surprised that Universal took so long to announce the attraction, because generally people need some advance notice to set up airline and hotel deals.  Delta is probably glad to see the announcement, finally.

The other big attraction in the area interesting to me seems to be the Mission Space at Disney’s Epcot, which offers a “Rocket to the Red Planet” (Mars) with variable level of intensity, link here.    The “Green Team” probably sounds safer for me. There is also a Planetary Plaza that looks interesting.   Maybe Today will visit this place.


It would seem that a productive visit to Orlando would hit both of these attractions, at separate theme parks, and cost more.  It’s a good time to look at the implications of the sinkhole problem, too.    

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

CNN on OJ: "20 Years Later"


CNN aired its own mini special on OJ, “20 Years Later: The Night that OJ Simpson’s Bronco Chase Crashed the NBA Finals”.  It lists the five things to know right here

  
Apparently the chase attracted the most TV viewers early.  And CNN reported the bizarre conversations where police were trying to convince OJ that people still loved him, until he turned himself in.
  
Of course, plenty of speakers in the one hour documentary refer to OJ as a sociopath.
    
The special on the Bronco chase seemed puny compared to NBC Dateline’s special recently.
  
Ford discontinued the Bronco brand two years after this incident/ 

OJ would speak to police without an attorney only once.

PS: I spoke too soon. On Tuesday night, CNN aired a second documentary, one hour, "The O.J. Simpson Trial."  Kato Kaehlin, now looking grizzled and foppish, got to explain how the murder gave him a chance to launch his own brand of clothing.  "This is the hand I was dealt."   

Monday, June 16, 2014

CNN airs "41ON41" to present the life of 41st President George H. W. Bush


Sunday, CNN aired the 2-hour documentary “41ON41” about the first president Bush, that is, George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, from 1989 to January 1993.  CNN boasts of its acquisition of the film here. The film is directed by Mary Cate Kary and Dick Kalplan.

Bush is presented as kindler and gentler than his somewhat bumbling son who had to handle 9/11.  Bush’s greatest accomplishment was winning the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 so quickly and efficiently, all things considered.  But then economic stagnation set in (mild compared to what would happen in 2008), and Bush broke his pledge of “read my lips, no new taxes.”  Bush sounded like an exponent of volunteerism (following Carter), with his “thousand points of light”.

Bush is shown skydiving above coastal Maine on his 85th birthday.  I have seen his Kinnnebunkport ME home from a distance just once, in June 1995. 

Former president Bill Clinton describes his friendship with George H. W. Bush.


I remember Barbara Bush well, who always referred to her husband as “George Bush”.  I also recall her talking about family values at the 1992 GOP convention, when she said, “You don’t have to be married, but if you do have children, they have to come first in your life.”  In most recent years, the “demographic winter” arguments seems to be gaining traction instead.  

Wikipedia attribution link for anti-war protestors near Bush Maine home, 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Anthony Bourdain visits Bahia state on Brazilian coast



Anthony Bourdain concluded his latest “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” world food tour, with a visit to Bahia (link), a state in Brazil on the Atlantic Coast, with capital city of Salvador.  He started out with the Caipirinha lime cocktail.  Later he pulled apart a crab delicacy, organ by organ, related to a source of poison. 
   
Bourdain talked a lot about the past history of slavery, and the large influence of the African population, relative even to other parts of Brazil.  
   
He presented the area as a somewhat otherworldly place, something like one of the other dominions in Clive Barker’s “Imajica”.  One could view visiting almost another totally different culture as like going to another planet or at least “dominion”.
   
Bourdain presented Bahia as a trendy place for artists and writers (and retirees) to settle.  I would find that personally hard to imagine. But I hear the same things about some of Central America.  
  
  
On Sunday morning, Fareed Zakaria followed up on Global Public Square with a discussion of slums in Brazil, at a time when the government spends money on the World Cup of soccer. A speaker suggested that people move to slums because they still offer a better life than rural poverty. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for shore picture of Salvador 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Steve Harvey show presents very successful treatment for teen acne


On Friday, June 13, 2014, the Steve Harvey show, syndicated on NBC, presented an important medical opportunity.  It presented a young male (age 14) and female (older) teenager with very severe acne, and discussed all the social disadvantages they faced.  Then a female New York City dermatologist demonstrated the treatments, with laser peel surgery, and various antibiotics and peels,.that eliminated most of the visible pitting and scarring, with almost unbelievable cosmetic results.  I presume that the show paid for the procedures, which would have cost probably over $100000 each.  I don't know whether insurance companies would have covered cosmetic treatment for acne for teenagers under Obamacare, but it certainly sounds very important to the teens who benefit.  

Harvye had not yet provided a link to this part of the episode. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NBC Dateline relives the OJ Trial with a 2-hour documentary


NBC Dateline presented a two-hour special with Lester Holt, “O.J. 20 Years Later”, basic link here. The documentary purported to tell what the jury never heard.
  
One of the more interesting parts of the prequel was the on-off relationship of Simpson with Nicole Brown.  Having divorced, the story of their repeated but bizarre attempts to get together again, yet recurring anger, the resumption of the relationship did not make sense.  Also, the courage of Ron Goldman, in trying to intervene instead of leaving, was remarkable. 
   

The documentary gives a good reenactment of the low speed choice on June 17, 1994, which I recall seeing myself in an apartment in Arlington when coming home from work.
  
The extreme sequestration of the jury was remarkable.  Only two of the jurors wanted to convict.
I recall hearing the verdict at work that day.  Clinton had prepared for possible demonstrations all over the country.  I didn’t buy the idea that racial divisions could affect the objectivity of a verdict.  But the prosecutions goofs, including the mess with the shoes and then with Furhman, probably ruined the case.  
I even recall talk show host Victoria Jones talking about OJ.
  
The civil trial from the Goldman family is then explained, and attorney Petrocelli explains shaking Simpson’s hand.
  
I do have Marsha Clark’s book “Without a Doubt” , Viking, 197, with Teresa Carpenter.
  
The documentary ends with an account of Simpson’s arrest and conviction for a bizarre burglary in Las Vegas.
  
  

Above is another YouTube documentary, “OJ Simpson, the Untold Story” (one hour).  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ellen challenges Grey's star Dempsey to shave his legs for charity bike race; Apprentice's Bill Rancic on The View


Well, daytime TV (a bene of retirement) offered some silliness today, as well as some grave subject matter.  
    
This afternoon, Ellen DeGeneres was interviewing Patrick Dempsey, from Grey’s Anatomy on ABC.  He said, if I heard correctly, that he is also a real physician.  He was talking about some charity bicycle race coming up soon in LA.  Ellen asked if he was going to shave his legs.  (“Shaggy legs” would be a good nickname.)   Yes, she really did.  Then they got into a discussion of why competitive cyclists do this, and there doesn’t seem to be a very good reason other than tradition, belonging to the group.  (The aerodynamics argument is negligible, although it may matter more for swimming.)  Should men do this just as a demonstration for charity?  Is this “What Women Want” (the 2000 comedy which I think I saw on an airplane on the way to an SLDN benefit in San Francisco).  Here’s what “About.com” says about the topic. 

Then Ellen hosted a boy band called “Fall Out Boy” which performed “Alone Together”.  That sounds like the result of our dependence on social media. (See review of Sherry Turkle's book of that name on my Books blog, Nov. 2, 2011).
   
   
Earlier today, on ABC’s "The View", Bill Rancic, a winner of Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” Show (link ) was weighing in on all the crises of the day, when he suddenly mentioned that a college roommate used to shave his own back and arms.  So lightning struck twice today. (And remember what happened to Troy McClain on seaso n 1.) 
      

The View” then turned serious.  Gloria Allred discussed the case in Wisconsin of the two tween girls who plotted to lure a “friend” and stabbed her in order to offer a sacrifice to the fictional character “SlenderMan” from the Creepypasta site. She did not mention the idea of blaming the site, and said that the girls had premeditated the attack so they must have known right from wrong. 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Revisiting "Kyle XY"; what might have been had the series continued


I watched the conclusion of the unfinished series “Kyle XY” on DVD, with the last two episodes from Season 3 (2009) available, as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “Bring the House Down”.  
  
Kyle has found out that the villainous Michael Cassidy is his “brother”, with the same egg donor.  Jesse’s death is faked, and then Kyle does things that he says (as narrator) are out of character for him to do, to stop Cassidy, from creating a world of clones and supermen without childhoods.  He has a friend break into a house (picking a lock) and finds all the records and burns them (it’s hard to believe that the wouldn’t be backed up).
  
The last episode starts with a curious scene where Jesse admire’s Kyle’s (Matt Dallas) smooth torso, noting how much his muscles have expanded.
  
The DVD has a section where the producers talk about what they would have done had Kyle XY not been canceled by ABC Family.   
  
The DVD has many short deleted scenes from the last two episodes, including one in which Kyle vomits in a parking lot and causes an earthquake that causes a car to flip over.
  
   
I do see a couple of “Season 4” videos on YouTube in Dutch, will have to see what became of them.   


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Morgan Spurlock tries playing "College Sports" as Inside: should college athletes be paid?


CNN's "Inside Man" Season 2 with Morgan Spurlock concluded Sunday night with "College Sports" (link).  Morgan tired out being a college basketball player and then a football player -- at age 43 -- to see if he had what it takes.  Maybe baseball would serve him better;  I think Nolam Ryan threw a no-hitter at age 45.

Spurlock looked at how college scholarships under NCAA supervision work, and whether these kids are "students first" or "athletes first".  Fear it is the latter.

When I taught algebra as a graduate assistant instructor in the 1960s and the University of Kansas, I may have had athletes, who flunked.  I was oblivious in those days.

Spurlock says the kids do learn a lot of virtues playing sports.  But remember Malcolm Gladwell considers college football as morally problematic because of the concussion risk. which Spurlock doesn't mention/

A related film is "Schooled: The Price of College Sports" from Strand, reviewed on Movies blog Nov. 13, 2013.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

CNN "The Sixties" continues with "The World on the Brink": Kennedy faces Khrushchev, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis


Thursday, June 5, 2014, CNN aired the second of its revised series “The Sixties: The Decade that Changed the World” with “The World on the Brink” (link), focusing on the international crises of the Kennedy administration.
  
The documentary, saying that Kennedy had really run to the right of Nixon on opposing communism in the 1960 election,  started with the faulty intelligence that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  Early in his presidency, Kennedy had a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, who announced “We will bury you.”

I recall, that a VA and US Government midterm exam at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington VA in January 1961 (right before the Kennedy Inauguration") had consisted of a single essay question: "Compare Democracy and Communism"/  
  
The Soviets at the time believed that the way to catch up to the US was to surround US hegemony with crises all over the world.  The Soviets were further behind in missiles than we thought, even though they seemed to have edged us with a “one run victory” into space in 1957 with Sputnik.  

The communists started putting up the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961.  That particular week turned out to be important to me personally, for other reasons.  Kennedy thought that the Berlin Wall could tactically relieve some of the pressure from the Soviets, as they could imagine they had contained the west.  Nevertheless, various crises came back in October 1961. 

The documentary then shifts with an account of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961 (see this blog, Oct. 23, 2012).  The coverage emphasizes how close we came to nuclear war and how voices of the JCS became ragged in meetings after the quarantine and blockade of Soviet ships was introduced.

An early sign of trouble had been the building of soccer fields, instead of baseball outfields, in Cuba, suggesting that Russians were coming.


As I’ve noted, I was a patient at NIH at the time, but going to GWU in Washington in the evening.  I saw the Oct. 22 speech in the Student Union while having supper.  Other patients at NIH then had no clue as to what was going on, unless I brought it up.

I was not aware of the extent to which ordinary Americans had prepared fallout shelters and striped grovery stores dry during the crisis.  My own parents, even in Arlington VA, did not do this.  Yet, the government had encouraged citizens to stock fallout shelters, even with Geiger counters.   These were the days of "duck and cover."
     
The documentary looks ahead to the Kennedy Assassination (a previously aired episode, to be re-aired next week).  The show takes the position that JFK probably would not have been as aggressive about Vietnam as was LBJ.  After Kennedy’s death, the Domino Theory became accepted, creating the environment that led to the controversial male draft, but with student deferments, creating a big moral issue for its own time.  The deferments would be replaced by a lottery in 1969, but I would go in 1968. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Gideon Raff (interviewed about POW release in Afghanistan) had written Israeli series "Prisoners of War" as well as "Homeland"


CNN’s Don Lemon interviewed Gideon Raff, writer of several Israeli and later American television series, about the exchange of the American POW Boer Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners, and the possibility that Bergdahl could have caused his own predicament.  Raff emphasized that once someone is a POW, his life is determined for him by others; he becomes totally dependent, and adjustment to freedom will be difficult.
Gideon Raff was the writer of the Israeli series “Prisoners of War” (“Hatufim” or “Abductees”), from 2009-2012, some of which was adapted for “Homeland” for Showtime.
   
The original series depicts the return (after complex and tense negotiations) of two prisoners who had been captured in Lebanon 17 years earlier, along with one who returns dead.  I looked at the very first episode, called “The Return” on Hulu, link here (with many commercials, the 62 minute episode takes about 90 minutes to play). The men who return are confronted with wives who have moved on with other relationships.

The series had aired on Israel’s “Keshet” and Israel’s Channel 2.
 
Hulu requires age verification to watch the series (the subject matter of "COPA" a few years back), and this can be accomplished by being loggoed on to Facebook on one's browser while creating an account/   

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Anthony Bourdain revisits Thailand


Anthony Bourdain revisited an area where he first started his food journalism with “No Reservations” back in 2009, Thailand.
   
   
The caption for the episode (link) is “shut up and eat”.  And he gets to make rice whiskey. 
   
As popular as this country used to be for some tourists, it’s never held a lot of sway with me.  It’s subject to floods, and has some pretty archaic laws affecting freedom of speech.  And it has a reputation for men that want underage, well, whatever. 
  
Nevertheless, Danny Boyle’s  film “The Beach” (2000) with Leonardo Di Caprio was pretty compelling.  Remember when he get to check his email at the end?
  
Wikipedia attribution link, Democracy monument in Bangkok. 


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Morgan Spurlock volunteers in New Orleans, helps set up fund raiser, to explore "Income Inequality" as part of his "Inside Man" series


Sunday, June 1, 2014, Morgan Spurlock explored “Income Inequality” in his “Inside Man” series.  Spurlock visited New Orleans and volunteered with a group called Total Community Action, or TCA.  Then he visited some of the top “1%”, including a lawyer who got rich bringing litigation for poor people. A link is for the CNN program is here
  
Spurlock said that in New Orleans, the rich and poor live closer together than in many other cities.
  
  
The businessmen almost all agreed that “we didn’t all start in the same place in line”, and that it took more than hard work; it took a break.  It also took a certain amount of luck, because by definition entrepreneurs take risks.   Life is hard for those at the bottom, and technology has eliminated a lot of well-paid blue collar jobs of the past.  The businessmen said that it was morally imperative for them to give back and do something personally about inequality.
  
Spurlock and several of the businessmen ran a fundraiser for TCA at one of the homes.  


Update: June 2

The link for New Orleans Total Community Action Services is here.  Does TCA have to hire professionals to do most of the counseling services?  It would appear so.  How much of this is done by volunteers?  Does someone know?  Could Morgan answer this himself?

TCA's own website males it look bureaucratic.  How do services actually get delivered?  How does the really personal contact work?  Morgan could follow up on this with another report.  See the comment on the Aug 29, 2007 posting (on an AC360 show) here.