Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don Lemon interviews NBC photo-journalist Ashoka Mukpo on his recovery from Ebola, and on state health department quarantines, on "CNN Tonight"


On Wednesday night, CNN’s Don Lemon (on “CNN Tonight”) aired a half-hour interview with NBC contract cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola shortly after starting to work for NBC News in West Africa. The main video link is here.   Mukpo was interviewed in his somewhat spartan apartment in Providence, RI. 
  
Mukpo says the onset came suddenly.  He felt a deep backache when stopping at his apartment, took his temperature, which was 101.3F, and knew immediately he faced a rough two weeks.


He says that Ebola is far worse than any flu, causing weakness that is profound.  He had difficulty with the transfusion of plasma from Dr. Brantly, but the next day began to feel better.  The anecdotal evidence really does suggest that plasma with antibodies does help more patients, which will put people who have recovered into the position of dealing with repeated plasma donations, which are possible.  In fact, in the early 1980s, there was a large public push to recruit plasma and marrow donations, and this died off once the HIV epidemic became known.  (Gay men were banned from donating blood, but the pressure for blood donations from anyone became much less for several years, at least as I saw when living in Dallas.)
   
Mukpo suggested that states are being unreasonable in quarantining people without symptoms and negative tests.  That will discourage more health care workers from volunteering. 
  
Mukpo speaks without an accent, and no one has indicated what language his name comes from (Russian?).  

Earlier this week, Anderson Cooper had interviewed Ryan Boyko, who is under quarantine in Connecticut despite the fact that he did not go near Ebola patients when in West Africa. In factm Boyko is one of two quarantined graduate students written up in the Yale News, story here

A Providence newspaper reinforces Mukpo’s story here. Mukpo may know that nearby West Warwick was the home of Gode Davis, who passed away recently.  His film “American Lynching” remains unfinished (I’ve personally seen some of the footage), but discussion goes on.   Davis was very active in local civics, including the response to the 2003 West Warwick disco fire. 

CNN reports on Thursday morning thay Kaci Hickox went on a bike ride near her home in northern Maine and state police followed her, but she has not been arrested as of now.  This will wind up in court.  
    
Wikipedia attribution link for West Warwick, RI park picture. 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Witnessed: The Iran Hostage Crisis": documentary on CNN recalls this incident 35 years ago


On Oct. 28, CNN aired a 35-anniversay special, “Witnessed: The Iran Hostage Crisis”, commemorating the event of Sunday, November 4, 1979 when “student rebels” took control of the US embassy in Teheran and took 52 people (actually 66 at first) hostage. The basic link is here
   
Most of the one-hour film consists of interviews of the hostages who remain alive today, and who are largely in their sixties and seventies now.  A number of them expected to be killed, and some thought that others had been killed.
  

CNN says that this was the first time that militant Islam was politicized.  That may not be completely true: the Arab Oil Embargo in the fall of 1973 was certainly “political”, but this was the first time that civilians were targeted, although overseas.  An embassy is technically the soil of the owning country – the US, so in a sense this was like a domestic attack.

Imagine what it must have felt like, to know that your own government was helpless and had to “negotiate with terrorists”.

The seizure was motivated by anger when the United States allowed the former Shah of Iran into the uS for cancer treatment.  The militants wanted the Shah to stand trial in Iran, but he died anyway.

For a while, the new Iranian government under Ayatollah Khomeini supported the militants. Originally, it had been expected that the holding of embassy employees would only last a couple of days, but Khomeini escalated the crisis.
    
Over time, the hostages became a burden, and some militants wanted a way out.  Hatred of Jimmy Carter seemed to be the common denominator.  (Carter had angered them by praising the Shah in 1978.)  The plane taking the hostages to Germany left the moment that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981.  The hostages were held for 444 calendar days.  A military attempt had failed in April 1980 when a chopper crashed in a sandstorm and the casualties had to be abandoned.
  
EDS, however, under Ross Perot, had launched a commando raid to free two employees earlier in 1979, when they had been arrested in Iran in 1978 (story).  The EDS property on Forest Lane in Dallas (now belonging to Trinity Industries) contained a public sign counting the days the hostages had been held.  I often drove past it, as I was living in Dallas at the time. 
The hostage crisis suggested to militant Islam that it can “get away with it”, although this was Shia Islam. The crisis was also the subject of the film "Argo" directed by Ben Affleck (movies blog, Oct. 14, 2012). 
Wikipedia attribution link for DOD picture of hostage return. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Anthony Bourdain: drinking the muscle milk from the Masai people of Tanzania


Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown continued Sunday with “Tanzania”, with much of the show taking place in an ancient volcanic basin (Ngorongoro Crater) with its own ecosystem, and some attention to saving big cats – lions.  These magnificent beings may be lost forever to poachers, link here.  Bourdain stays in an odd resort in the Crater that has hobbit-like huts.  Bourdain also focuses on the Masai people, and consumed their high-protein food, which included a bizarre kind of yogurt and “muscle milk”.  He said they are the most physically fit people in the world.
   
   
He’s about 3000 miles away from the horrors of Ebola, but the terrorism of Somalia and Kenya, and the rabid anti-gay world of Uganda is much closer. 
 
In the earlier part of the show, he visits the island of Zanzibar.

I do recall a coworker who took his wife on a honeymoon safari in the country in 1973.  
   
Wikipedia attribution link for volcano crater in Tanzania. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Emily the Musical" will apparently hit hard the lack of opportunity for some minority kids


A random check of PBS yielded a show called “Heroes”, where the first words from an African-American girl were, “all my life, I’ve had to take care of someone else.”  There were other interviews with kids about even having an opportunity to get a full education because of family circumstances.  
  
The kids seemed to be producing a musical in Harlem called “Emily the Musical”.  There were some embedded very-short films called “Where Is He?” (that is, Dad), and “Memoirs of a Superwoman”.  That is Clark Kent now bends genders.
  
  
The director seemed to be Jack Alpert. 
  
Remember how in the move “October Sky”, the older brother offers to go to work in the coal mines when the father gets black lung, leaving Homer the freedom to dream about rockets.  I remember showing that to a physics class when subbing. 
  
But indeed many parents indenture their older kids to help support the siblings that the parents had. 



Friday, October 24, 2014

"Mystery in Orange County": the murder of Mirabel Ramos, Iraq war veteran, in 2013 on NBC Dateline


On Friday, October 24, 2014, NBC Dateline aired a one hour true life investigation, “Mystery in Orange County”, about the disappearance and murder of 36-year-old Mirabel Ramos in May 2013.
The broadcast shows the other side of “The O.C.” when compared to the version of the popular Fox series a few years ago: hardworking immigrants.  Maribel had served in the Army, in combat in Iraq, to earn money for college and then had majored in criminal justice. 

She had a male roommate, Kwang Chol Joy, who would eventually be convicted of second degree murder.  Apparently he had a “crush” on her and killed her and hid the body after an argument.  Police took the computer and cell phone in his apartment, forcing him to use the public library, where “it’s free”.  Police had originally suspected other clients on the site “Plenty of Fish” (maybe “free fish”), but all had alibis.   Police got a warrant to track the keystrokes of Kwang at the library, leading them to a tree in an LA County canyon (Sanitago Canyon) where Mirabel had been buried.  The OCReigster has a story on the incident here


Both Mirabel and Kwang had made bizarre 911 calls.
  
Much of the story is told by her sister Lucero Gonzalez.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Women in War" opens "Makers" Women Who Made America" for PBS


PBS has started a new series, “Makers: Women Who Made America”, with a one hour episode “Women in War”, link here (with video).  
  
The show starts with women saying they were brought up in the “Betty Crocker” era.  In the 1950s, a women’s magazine actually wrote, “Whom would you rather have a college degree, you or your husband?”
  
Until 1967, women were held to 2% of the Armed Forces and limited with a ceiling of O6 (COL) grade.  But in the 1950s, some women had noticed that the military did offer the idea of a career with equal pay, at least up to the maximum grade.  The 50’s saw the comedy film “Never Wave at a WAC”.
  
   
Women gradually increased combat roles during the Reagan years, as a female general led an effort in Central America, and sometimes were in command during the Persian Gulf War.  But it wasn’t until 2013 that practically all combat positions were made open to women.
  
The documentary showed the indoors of the CIA premises at Langley, as they were in the 1990s when the Al Qaeda threat was becoming more apparent. 
      

The documentary did not mention lesbians in the military or the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was in place from 1993-2011, or the “older ban” on gays in the military.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

CSI shows the dangers of high school chemistry lab class


One time when I was substitute teaching, the lesson plan was to show a couple of “CSI” (“Crime Scene Investigation”) episodes to a math class (from the Miami series).
  
Last night, CBS did air an interesting episode “The Book of Shadows” (set in Las Vegas) about a male chemistry teacher (Carl Messner) who suddenly runs down a high school corridor while burning to death.  It is pretty gruesome, as he is completely charred.  George Eads and Ted Danson star as forensic detectives. 

Right before, a couple of students are speaking mockumentary style and filming in videocams, as if making “Cloverfield”. 
  
We find out that the teacher, deeply in debt, had connections to both drug dealers and the Satanism community, and that the mother of the kid shooting the video is involved.  The kid has cancer and limited life expectancy, despite his wholesome manner in the show.
   
The best CBS link went private. Let's try this one.

    

I did have Honors Chemistry and AP many times, especially in 2005, when I substitute taught.  I never had lab.  But I sometimes wondered if something could go wrong.  In the episode, the chemicals involved are red phosphorus (it’s the white form that burns) and potassium chlorate.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Anthony Bourdain visits Hue, Vietnam, site of Tet Offensive and American bombings during the days of my own draft


Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” paid a visit to Hue, Vietnam.  That city was a focus in the 1968 Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese, which actually occurred shortly before my own induction into the Army in 1968.  Bourdain, visiting a woman who had survived it, pointed out that the North Vietnamese imprisoned, executed, or even buried alive citizens whom they believes had been cooperating with the South Vietnamese. US Marines captured it but the city was practically destroyed.  

Later, Bourdain visits a network of tunnels south of the DMZ, extending from the coast well inland. Many families lived in them for six years, with children born.  They were like the tunnels that the Jews used in Ukraine in WWII (like the film “No Place on Earth”, Movies blog. Feb. 14, 2014).  The tunnels provided a refuge largely from American bombing.  On family, in a scene shot on the coast, depicted what it was like to be able to live outdoors and fish again after six years underground.


All of this bears on the issue of “whether we should have been there”, for those of us who went through the military draft.
  

The show did give some attention to the rather eclectic light food.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mike Rowe and "Somebody's Gotta Do It": raising birds in MD, making signs in TX


On Wednesday, Oct. 15, CNN aired two segments of Mike Rowe’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It”, a sequel to an older series “Dirty Jobs”.  The title does suggest karma management, doesn’t it!


The first half hour took place at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center  ( link ), NE of Washington DC, near the Beltway and Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  I have been near there many times but never on the premises, so I’ll try to visit it soon myself since I live in the DC area.  The segment presented efforts to preserve the whooping crane, including a woman who walks baby birds hours a day so they learn to survive on their own.
  

The second segment presented Evan, a neon sign manufacturer in Austin, TX.  He is actually a graduate of Yale with an English major and did not go to trade circle, and making 1950s-style signs is a kind of art and sculpture.  This sort of individual enterprise is popular in central Texas.  But making the signs involves enormous skill, as the bending of the glass, the recharging of it with electricity to clean it and filling with inert gas or mercury is dangerous work.  The segment did go into the debate about trade schools.  

On Saturday, Oct. 18. Rowe visited the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas to see how the underwater show is set up by the stage manager Dale.  The male divers were all absolutely hairless -- head and body.  "Josh" dove 80 feet into 20 feet of water.  In December 1997, I went to a show "Atlantis" at the Luxor, where men hung over the audience.

Rowe also visited Lelilah's "Hair Museum" in Independence MO (oddly, home of an offshoot of the Mormon Church which I visited in 1982).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

EJ's "death" and "no funeral" instructions inspire controversy (on NBC's "Days of our Lives"); actor Freddie Smith injured in crash


An interesting and perhaps disturbing sidebar appears in the “Days of our Lives” episode on Tuesday, Oct. 16.  EJ has been shot and killed after an encounter in the park.  Mysteriously, on Monday, Kristen has injected something into the arm of EJ’s corpse at the end of the episode.  Of course, we know from the past that on “Days”, people have a way of coming back from the dead (as in 2004, when many of the characters wound up on a replica of Salem set up in the Caribbean, after Marlena had supposedly killed many of them). 
   
On Tuesday, an unidentified man brings an urn which he says contains the cremated remains of EJ.  The synopsis is here. Of course, Sami makes the interesting comment that EJ had instructed that he be cremated and that there be no funeral service.  That’s provocative – why?  Is it because he “had it coming to him?”  That sounds like it could encourage more hits.  Is it because he expects “resurrection” and that this was planned?
   
It’s important to note that in my own experience, some relatives have cremation and a short graveside ceremony (fifteen minutes), and a memorial church service later (with no casket, but music, testimonials, and a reception).  (Some services even include communion.)  Others have a longer graveside service, with testimonials, but no formal reception (sometimes an informal private lunch).  
   
I’ve actually thought about this in my own life (I’m 71), and written something on one of my Wordpress blogs, here. We all die of something, and that isn’t controversial.  But when a death is ugly or contemptuous – and a mob hit as in this soap, is certainly “ugly”, it matters.  My own will recognizes this possibility, and there are consequences in the distribution.  I think when a loss of life is connected to a political or some kind of power struggle, very great discretion should be followed in the observance that follows, and it should be simple and low-key.  This may sound like “giving in”, but I think it is a way of recognizing serious problems in somone’s life, which may be affecting many other people.
  
As for the rest of the storyline, John seems to be letting Theresa off the hook for putting him into a coma, even though he knows.  I want to see Theresa get caught and led away in handcuffs.
Will and Sonny are working through their same-sex marriage relationship, but Will is finding his integrity tested as he accepts new paid writing assignments that will affect other people in the family.  (Guy Wilson is becoming convincing as Will;  Freddie Smith was recently injured slightly in a car accident in his home Ohio  (story).  People have said that I write about family in my own books, sometimes in sensitive areas (like the eldercare chapter in DADT-3.

  
Sami (Allison Sweeney), a drawing card for the show’s ratings, is said to be leaving soon, and that her departure will be catastrophic – she may be the next to be murdered, perhaps as a hit.  I don’t quite see the plot that will take her out, though, yet.    



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis" online at PBS Frontline, puts football as a sport on notice


PBS Frontline “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” aired Oct. 8, 2013 but is available to cable subscribers at this link.  (You have to be logged on to your cable provider’s site first.)  The film is narrated by Will Lynn and directed by Michael Kirk.
  
The film starts with the account of the death of Mike Webster ), formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, at 50, or heart disease.  The “Autopsy that Changed Football” (by Dr. Bennett Omalu) started with the feet and legs, which looked like an old man’s.  His body was racked by cellulitis, but the worst damage was in his brain, from “getting his bell rung”.  It was of normal size, but his history suggested progressive dementia.  “Mike wasn’t Mike”.  Later the autopsy  showed long term damage to the brain, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”), with lesions in tau proteins which would choke brain cells. 

The film shows a brain autopsy, and the brain looks a bit like old hamburger. But it is also our closest object showing who someone was.


Football is destroying the brains of NFL players. For the NFL, this was unprecedented bad news. This had not been suspected for a helmeted sport.  It was fundamentally safer than boxing, it had been thought.  

 Malcolm Gladwell has raised the same issue over high school and college football.
  
Later, the wife of a disabled and then deceased player, Perfetto, was denied admittance to a player’s meeting.
  
The book is “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle fort Truth”, by Mark Fainaru-Wadu and Steve Fainaru, by Three Rivers Press (in Pittsburgh), link here. 

By 2010, CTE had been found in the brains of 19  of 20 deceased NFL players.  Then the case of Owen Thomas, who hanged himself without a history of concussions, showed CTE, from sub-concussive hits that are part of the game.
  
Then an 18-year-old athlete Pelly died and showed CTE in the frontal lobes.  Bring back Malcolm Gladwell’s arguments.  This was just from high school football.  Dr. Ann McKee (“the woman who would destroy football as we know it” link)

Robert Stern of the Boston University CTE Center does discuss the need for large enough and random samples of autopsy brains. 

NIH got involved with the case of Junior Seau. 

The $765 Million settlement by the NFL with retired players did hide the NFL’s own “research” putting it in the position that resembles that of tobacco companies.  The most popular sport in America is on notice, or as we sometimes said in the workplace, “on discipline.” 
  
No wonder I resisted being “forced” at age nine or so to try to play football – tackle – at least once. 

The film can be rented for $1.99 on YouTube, or played through your Cable provider  (depending on your contract).

Update:

PBS aired an update of the film on Dec. 22, 2015.

Monday, October 13, 2014

AC360: Anderson Cooper traces his southern roots on his dad's site: a lot of southern "Whites" might find out they are "black" with enough DNA comparison to slaves


On Tuesday night, Anderson Cooper traced his own roots (“Our Journeys Home”) on his AC360 program, for about a half hour. The basic link is here
   
His mother’s side is the Vanderbilt side, but he was more interested in the Cooper side, his father (Wyatt Emory Cooper), who was an actor and screenwriter, who grew up along the Mississippi-Alabama border (which he visits) and then lived in New Orleans, where Anderson found his dad’s report card in a school that had been damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.  On the Cooper side, Anderson had ancestors who had fought for the Confederacy during the War Between the States, and at least one major Union General.  Even though his southern ancestors were not rich, at least one had owned slaves.  Anderson is going to allow some DNA testing of his own blood to be compared to the slaves, which could show that he has small fraction of slave blood.  More people would turn up this finding that they realize.  Imagine how this technology could have affected the South in the 1960s, during segregation, when having even one black ancestor made one “black”. 
  
Anderson said, you don’t get to choose the family you’re born into, but you should get to choose how you live your own life. That would not have been as easy for him had been born a century earlier.   

PBS has a map of Anderson Cooper's family tree here.

Wyatt Emory Cooper's book is "Families: A Memoir and a Celebration", 1975, Harper Collins, link here.
   
Picture: near Natchez Trace Parkway in NE Mississippi near Tupelo;  my visit in May 2014.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Designer babies on Lisa Ling's "This Is Life"; Bourdain discovers mandatory mixed marriage in the history of Paraguay


Lisa Ling’s “This Is Life” series continued Sunday night with an exploration of generically designed babies (rather like “Brave New World”), call it eugenics, the episode called “The Genius Experiment: Designer Babies: Creating the Perfect Child.”   
  
A preview video is here

Lisa Ling described the theories of Robert Graham, but then presented the life of one particular young man, well built, working in manual labor as a roofer, because he already had a record as a felon, for growing marijuana.  He said he was ahead of his time.  He also got a girlfriend pregnant as a teen but is determined to support his kids.  He had plenty of books in his library and was teaching his older son chess.  

The pressure that parents feel to have their kids wind up on top was well documented in the 2004 book “The Cheating Culture” by David Callahan (March 28, 2006). 


As a former substitute teacher, I can say that teens who grow up in upper middle-class homes seemed to have a tremendous advantage over less lucky peers and often over-achieved them in multiple areas. But this didn’t seem to be matter of deliberate genetic design.  From a purely biological viewpoint, interracial marriage and childbearing may be desirable because it tends to increase genetic variety a reduce the risk that children will receive multiple copies of problematic genes. (As Anthony Bourdain pointed out in his “Parts Unknown” segment, “Paraguay” tonight, it has sometimes been required, rather than forbidden.)  Bourdain visited Paraguay partly to trace his own roots for a CNN series, and that would imply he has a slight fraction of indian blood.  
    
I had reviewed a film on eugenics “Homo Sapiens: 1900” on Feb. 14, 2014. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

"The Bronx": A "part unknown" is right next door for Anthony Bourdain


Some critics are claiming that the second episode this season of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, “The Bronx”, misses most of what matters, like the Latino community, and seems patronizing, as this piece in Huffington, “Still Doesn’t Know the Bronx”, link here

Bourdain sounds aloof when he says he lives in sight of it but had never really visited it. (He does explain its history, how it became a borough, and why there is a definite article in the name.)  He grew up in New Jersey.  He probably never cared, until somehow it got his attention.  It’s odd to find a “place unknown” less than ten miles from your own luxury pad.  That’s not to belittle his other work, where he has indeed gone into hot zones, and I suspect we’ll see more of that in the future (maybe even about Ebola).  He does cover the hip-hop scene, as well as graffiti art on the subways.  He says he has already been everywhere in the World. 
 
Some of the "food porn" in this segment was routine: dining at "White Tower".  Remember "Little Tavern" in Washington DC in the 1950s? 

Beyond Yankee Stadium (where I went to a game this summer), there is the Bronx Zoo, and Botannical Garden, which I visited when living here in the 1970s, and Pelham Bay Park, leading to “City Island” (the name of a movie, reviews on Movies Blog May 25, 2010), which I also visited at least once. There is also Van Cortlandt Park.   A few times I rode the Amtrak train through the South Bronx, which looked horrible in the 1970s.

  
I'd use one of my Harlem or Riverside pictures here, but I notice they're in Manhattan!

The most specific CNN reference seems to be this

Wiki[edia attribution link for Pelham Bay Park, here


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

CNN: "Vanished: The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370"


On Tuesday night, CNN aired the one-hour documentary “Vanished: The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370” (or “Vanished: MH370”) at 9 PM EDT, with primary link here
   
The flight left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Beijing around midnight before March 8, 2014 started and disappeared from all radar and air traffic control system detection less than an hour after takeoff. 
    
  
The discovery of “handshakes” from a British satellite company Inmarsat many weeks later would show that the aircraft had to have changed course and flown SW toward the Indian Ocean (story ) . 

The background investigations of the pilot, copilot, crew members, and passengers has not revealed anyone with a suspicious background or ties to terrorist groups.

CNN's Miles O'Brien has a separate video on a new theory as to why MH370 might have disappeared. The particular Boeing aircraft has an unlocked compartment outside the cockpit with access to control systems, which someone could have entered, link here. 
  Pictures: Lunar eclipse, pre-dawn, Oct. 8, 2014 (mine).   

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

"Selfie" says a lot about social media circles, and increases fear of flying (especially now)


I sampled ABC’s new series comedy “Selfie” this evening. The Pilot is available through Hulu on Imdb.  While pesky, the series doesn’t use the mockumentary technique of “Modern Family” and has some stylistic affinity with “Transparent”.  The series is created by Emily Kapnek and the Pilot is directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
  
It’s about sales culture, all right.  Eliza (Karen Gillan) is a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company who uses social media for her job well.  She has thousands of Facebook friends, but few real friends (the show has a line “Being friended on Facebook doesn’t mean making friends”)  On a business trip, she has cruised Ethan, but when she notices his wedding ring as she sits next to him, she vomits into air basg, twice, and spills them over herself and other passengers on the way to the lavatory.  I wonder if anyone knew about Ebola while filming the Pilot. 

A co-worker Henry (John Cho), offers to coach her in her social life, while insisting that their relationship remain platonic and professional.  He gets an award from the company for reversing the bad publicity from a nasal spray gone wrong, and his African-American male boss kisses him.  So she presumes he’s gay. She winds up playing bridesmaid at a wedding.
  
Episode 2 “Un-Tag My Heart” (Oct. 7) has Henry admitting he isn’t on Facebook, but relies on Linked-In instead, as if unaware that you can no longer lead a double life online.  So he fixes that quickly.


ABC’s site for the show is here
  
You have to deserve adulation before taking a selfie.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

"Transparent": Amazon Studios makes successful dramedy series about a transgendered professor


As an Amazon Prime member, I tried Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” this evening, the Pilot, that had aired in late August.  It’s just a half-hour show and has some of the wit, if not the mockumentary style, of “Modern Family”. 
  
In a well-to-do Jewish family in Los Angeles (the Pfeffermans), a retired former professor Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) and family patriarch, after divorce, plans his transformation to female.  He needs to tell his adult kids, but when he tries, he goes awry, letting the kids wonder if he has cancer and start wondering how the inheritances might go.  (Oh, there’s that left wing objection to inherited wealth.)
  
There are plenty of other tender mercies among the adult kids in the 30-hour pilot. Netflix and “Amazon Studios” are rapidly getting into the business of underwriting direct-to-video series on their own, it seems, to the delight of critics. It’s something that a nouveau author with ideas of getting a movie made needs to heed. 

In one scene, Mort says he has "dressed up as a man" his whole life, and what you see now is "who I am." -- or "This is me." 
  
   
The official site for playback or rental is here

Saturday, October 04, 2014

"The Mystery of Johnsburg Road" on ABC 20-20: the loss of Brian Carrick, questionable conviction of Mario Casciaro


ABC 20-20 Friday night presented the case of the murder of Brian Carrick, a retail stock worker who disappeared on an Illinois road in December 2002. The episode is called “The Mystery of Johnsburg Road”, with the main link here.

A well-spoken young man, Mario Casciaro, 31, is serving 26 years for murder, but a key witness Shane Lamb, says that his testimony was coerced by the district attorney, as he told ABC News shortly before the report was filmed.  The defendant had been tried twice since the jury was hung the first time. The body has been found. 

Kathleen Zellner, who had defended Ryan Ferguson, who was wrongfully convicted in Missouri (Nov. 18 and Nov. 24, 2013) is working on the case.  There seems to be no DNA evidence to support the conviction.



The report shows that it is rather easy for an ordinary person to get framed in a bizarre set of circumstances.   

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

ABC's "Forever" gives a new take on reincarnation and body-snatching


What would it be like to be immortal?  Dr. Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd, a Welsh actor who is 41) ries to find out as he works in a morgue, in the new ABC series "Forever" that started Sept. 23.

I sampled the series with Episode 2, “Fountain of Youth”  last night in the ABC Series, as a wealthy elderly man shows up in the morgue, having taken a steroid drug “Aterna”.  It gives him the body of a 30 year old man (at autopsy, his chest is muscular but absolutely hairless) and the brain of a 110-year-old.

The script says that the trouble with these illegal PED’s and steroids is that they actually work.  No wonder people want to use them.
  
Morgan provides an unusual take on reincarnation or even body-snatching.  When he “dies”, he re-awakens in a nearby body.  His first death had occurred two centuries ago when he worked as a doctor in the African slave trade.  In his progressive lives, he finds he doesn’t age, and might get younger (like Benjamin Button). 
  
Suppose I could wake up with another’s 18-year-old body tomorrow morning? I’d say, peak at Morgan;s gams. 
  
  
As I used to think, some men seem to “freeze in youth”. I didn't get to.  I had "lost it: before I was in the game. 

The ABC link is here.   
  
Picture: NYC Pride, June 2014.