Thursday, December 31, 2015

Couple's Victorian lifestyle shown on ABC Nightline


A couple near Seattle, Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman, follow the late Victorian lifestyle, as shown on an ABC Nightline broadcast late Thursday night.

The couple has a website, “This Victorian Life”, that fully explains its curatorial experience.  There is also a book published by Skyhorse (Amazon).  Sarah says she wrote the book out by cursive handwriting and then had to type it.

The Victorian era ran from 1837-1901, and the couple relates to the last decade, when a few automobiles and sporadic use of electricity were coming into use in cities.

Sarah wears corsets and makes her own clothes. Both are handy with large Victorian stoves and ovens, and lamps.  They ride oversized Victorian bicycles and unicycles.

The presentation reminded me of the PBS series “The 1900 House” (May 14, 2009).

The couple was quizzed about the political implication of the lifestyle.  In Victorian times, women couldn’t vote or weren’t “equal”.  Sarah says, incredibly, that the right to vote is overrated.


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The presentation is of particular interest to me because the space-ship “ashram” in my recent screenplay (see main blog, Dec. 30) is divided into 5 sections by historical time period, one of them being the Year 1900, where the protagonist (“Me”) is assigned to “learn to live”. The look of things in the couple’s  website may help with the details in the screenplay.
 
Wikipedia attribution link for Victorian kitchen at Dalgarven Mill in Ayrshire, Scotland, public domain picture by Roger Griffith.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bernie Sanders attacks the moral basis of the GOP on "The View" today


On “The View” today, Bernie Sanders appeared.  He spoke for marriage equality (for gays) and for mandatory allowance of three months paid maternity leave for mothers (he probably would go along with paternity leave too, and not just for Mark Zuckerberg). He also characterized the GOP as having catered to the far right (possibly because of gerrymandering), and said that the GOP does not believe a woman has the right to control her own body at all times, and does not believe that men and women who do not reproduce or procreate in marital relationships are fully equal with those who do.



Earlier, the program played a clip of Ben Carson talking about abortion, implying repealing of “Roe v. Wade”. Carson was quoted as saying he is “reasonable” but he does not believe an unborn baby’s life should be taken even if the woman was impregnated by force
 .
Whoopi Goldberg’s reaction was, how dare he!  The GOP seems perfectly OK with allowing rich women to have abortions out of sight.

By the way, the "View" website seems behind, having episodes archived only through Dec. 2, 2015.

There was a report on CNN anchor’s Poppy Harlow passing out during a broadcast.  This is said not to be uncommon during pregnancy.
 
It’s clear, when you talk about issues like abortion, or compelling employers to pay for leave, or “family values” for that matter, or inequality in many areas, there are times in a “free society” when perfect equality and perfect personal autonomy are logically impossible to achieve.  Today we tend to perceive moral compass as highly individualized whereas earlier generations considered the extended family and surrounding community (often faith-based) as a party affected by a person’s “choices”.  This tended to affect those who are “different” or “special” more than “average persons”.  So logic forces one to consider how one deals with unwelcome coercion from others as a moral issue unto itself.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and then the Battle of Britain parachute drop presented in Christmas program by Mormon Tabernacle Choir (with Tom Brokaw)


NBC has broadcast “A Dickens Christmas” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with John Rhys-Davies, conducted by Mack Willberg (who also composes and transcribes carols), directed by Lee Wessman, with the Choir’s video link here.
    
The half hour presentation is a rough, abbreviated setting of the novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, with 19th Century London set up on the Tabernacle stage at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. 
  
The play was supplemented by an epilogue ("Christmas in the Air") led by Tom Brokaw, who reads a rendition of the food drop in 1940 by parachute during the Battle of Britain.  Toy parachutes (from the “Candy Bomber”) actually deploy over the audience. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

ABC airs 3rd Democratic presidential debate on a Saturday night; Sanders makes sense on pressuring wealthy Muslim countries to do more for refugees


It was ABC’s turn to do a presidential debate Saturday night, the Third of the Democratic Party debates, from Manchester, NH (Anselm College), this one with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. ABC summarizes the debate with an article “9 Moments that Mattered” by Ryan Struyk and others.

Hillary Clinton suggested that ISIS is already using Donald Trump's speeches for propaganda purposes, but  (Fox) there is no evidence that this is true.  (She said Trump was becoming "ISIS's best recruiter".)   Hillary also moderated her calls on clamping down on the Internet, saying we need our best minds in Silicon Valley to look at the "back door encryption problem" as well as countering ISIS propaganda, especially on Twitter.

What caught my ear was Sanders saying that it is easy to get rid of a dictator and do a regime change, but hard to ensure that the government that replaces it will be stable.  Paul Rosenfels used to say that about revolution back in the 1970s.  Sanders also suggested that wealthy Arab states should do much more to help refugees and provide military power against ISIS.  He’s referring to UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.   The differences between Sunni and Shiite do not matter to most Americans.  Hillary challenged him and claimed that he used to support US interventions. (Trump claims he was against Bush’s war in Iraq in 2003.)



All the Democratic candidates blasted GOP policies that weaken the ability of “average people” to earn an adequate living in an increasingly competitive economy.

Hillary Clinton wants to reform the student loan programs but doesn’t promise free tuition, but more help for the poor.

Friday, December 18, 2015

ABC 20-20: "Escaping ISIS": American couple arranges evacuation of Christians from Iraq under siege


ABC 20-20 Friday night presented “Escaping ISIS”, how Joseph and Michele Assad, two Americans from California with Joseph a former CIA person, helped arrange for at least 149 Christian refugees to leave Irbil, Iraq for a town, Kosice. in Croatia in a daring refugee evacuation.  Elizabeth Vargas results, with the main detailed story here including video. The operation has been called an "exodus".

The evacuation was complicated by Russian airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq.



The broadcast also showed the destruction of Christian churches by ISIS in Iraq.  The refugees had been staying in a Catholic church after being driven out of Qaraqosh by ISIS invaders, which had given then 24 hours to “convert” to Islam or be slain.

Their evacuation was also complicated by the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, and the revelations that terrorists had hid among refugees.  Every refugee was carefully screened by Croatia.
 
The families will stay in barracks in Kosice for at least six weeks and are not allowed to cook.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of a canyon in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan by Jim Gordon, under Create Commons 2.0 Share-Alike license.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Childhood's End" Arthur C. Clarke's classic version of the apocalypse comes to the SyFy channel, and it's compelling


The big media event this week (before Star Wars and competing with the GOP) is the six-hour miniseries on SyFy of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1951 novel “Childhood’s End”, which I read while I was in the Army.  The series was developed by Matthew Graham and directed by Nick Hurran.



The time scale of the series seems more compressed than the book.  The three 2-hour episodes are called “The Overlords”, “The Deceivers”, and “The Children”.  In the book, the three parts are “The Earth and the Overlords”, “The Golden Age”, and “The Last Generation”.

The Overlords came in peace, but they definitely wanted something in return.  Human civilization's years were numbered. Enjoy Utopia only as long as it can last.

The appearance of the aliens in the openings scenes is quite well done and conveys what it might be like to live through a public alien landing.  Huge spaceships hand in the skies over many cities, and little pods come down and abduct people that the Overlords want to recruit.

In the first episode, the ambassador is a young married white male farmer, Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel).  When he’s abducted, he gets put up in what looks like a large hotel room inside the space ship, and talks to Karellen (Charles Dance) who is kept out of site until near the end of Episode 1.  Stormgren is articulate, and somehow manages to pull off organizing world government, ending inequality, ending wars.  Still, there is tension among the faithful, especially Christians, who never quite get around to forming a “Guilty Remnant”.  Karellen appears at the end of the first episode as a big red bird-like creature, almost like the devil.
Stormgren doesn’t seem to age during the next 19 years (the “Golden Age” where conformity is encouraged but creativity is not – a kind of dictatorship of the proletariat) , but is antsy as he learns he is sterile after an “accident”.  In the meantime, other characters have super-gifted kids, and many are invited to a big party in South Africa where a huge Ouija board for communicating with the Overlords has been set up.  Finally, there is a confrontation between Ricky and Karellen over his not being allowed to have children.  Karellen gets shot, but after almost dying seems to heal himself.  Ricky’s fears that the last generation may be coming are about to be confirmed.

The dialogue rather belittles modern ideas that having children in a private choice that should be viewed as a cultural afterthought, only for those prepared for the expense and risk. It could be seen as a commentary on ideas like “demographic winter”.

The series is engaging.  The photography is interesting, with the pod and spaceship concepts, and the scenery around the farm, making the farmhouse look small.  There is the feel of a Christopher Nolan film.  This might have been difficult to do in a film of two-hours length.


Update: Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2017

Part 3 follows the book as I remember it.  The "children" ascend (rather like the Rapture).  Karellen (a rather lovable satanic alien by the end) says "Your children are no longer yours."  Good! The birth rate increased during the Golden Age, and parents became suckers (the last adults are left to do what they want until the end.) Milo (Osy Ikhile) who overcame handicap as a boy with miracle healing and became an astro-physicist, makes a space journey to see the home planet of the Overlords, which is made to look like Venus.  In the book, as I recall, there were crowded cities but no living space on the ground.  I wanted to see more of this world.  It could have been construed as a little like the First Dominion in Clive Barker's "Imajica". This sort of material needs theatrical presentation and Imax-3D.

Ricky is given a chance to change into an alien and live with the Overlords and leave his wife, but refuses (in an overlong scene) and sickens and dies.

There is an island resort "New Athens", rather like a mixture of Atlantis Paradise Island and Orlando theme parks, where "culture" is kept -- until the residents blow it up when learning the final bad new (when Karellen interrupts a movie).

Jake (Ashkey Zukerman) is himself charismatic as the father of one of the first "gifted" kids Tom ( Laclan Roland-Kenn) and then the super goddess Jennifer.

At the end, all the children have assembled at Ayers Rock in Australia and ascend again. Milo returns in time to see the Earth blow up, as if torn open by a black hole.

The whole series had an annoying tendency to say "When ... returns" which is amateurish. Also the last episode seemed to have an unusually large amount of commercials and previews.

Toby Johnson has an op-ed "Karellen was a homosexual".  Indeed, Karellen seems indifferent to the emotions of family life and the investment "normal" humans have in procreation and lineage. Ricky and his wife are denied fertility, and Ricky gets a cancer that looks a lot like fulminant Kaposi's Sarcoma from the 1980s.  Of course, a lot is written about Arthur C. Clarke's own homosexuality, despite the fact that he lived in Sri Lanka where it was quite illegal to practice it.
 
However, Karellen does say he has sired 24 (bird-like) children, but they aren't his anymore.
 
The official site is here.  SyFy is the owner, but the production company seems to be Universal Pictures, with filming in Australia (and some in California).

Monday, December 14, 2015

"The Expanse", based on Corey's novels, presents the nasty politics of a colonized (and militarized) Solar System (SyFy)


The SyFy Channel is suddenly pretty active with two biggies this week, to go against Christmas movies, only a few days before the big Star Wars event opens.  It’s going to provide some competition for media viewer’s time, with some significant sci-fi literature explored.

I’ll talk about “The Expanse” first. Developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey, what’s interesting is not the somewhat hokey plot of the story 200 years from now, but the presentation of what’s happened to our civilization.


Earth has been badly damaged by global warming, but lots of people and descendants have colonized much of the rest of the Solar System.  Mars has been terraformed, but has an authoritarian culture, with politics like China.  The asteroid belt is mined for water and minerals and is also colonized, with cities in the very low-gravity environments of a few of them.  Ceres has a casino, and a curious network of subways drilled into the whole dwarf planet, as well as an artificial living space that slightly resembles Rama from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel ("Rendezvous with Rama", which Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce as a film).  The series is less specific about the possibilities of exploring places like Europa and Titan.

SyFy had streamed the Pilot, but aired the it tonight at 10 PM EST.  It is called “Dulcinea”, and supposes that Julie Mao (Florence Favrie), daughter of a wealthy Earth family in New York City, has disappeared from a cargo spaceship.  On Ceres, Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) will be tasked to find her.

Some other stuff happens, like an arm amputation, but limbs can be regrown.  There is some near zero-gravity sex.  One problem is that on Ceres, gravity would be very low but not zero, so it’s hard to explain how people would adopt to living there.  You can build centrifuges to live in, which provide “gravity” as long as you are in contact with the surface, but not a “field” that mass does (so anything that lifts you all the ground is a problem).  On Mars, with 40% of Earth’s gravity, it’s not so bad.  Maybe Star Trek’s idea of a gravity plate (made of neutron-star stuff) could somehow be done.  Ask Taylor Wilson (my BooK review today – it’s getting all too imagine rock-star young scientists like Taylor, and Jack Andraka (“Nano-Man” as a comic book character on Twitter as well as Stanford student) appearing in sci-fi movies acting in roles, or maybe as themselves).

Toward the end of the episode, Miller and party find Mao’s ship to be abandoned.  Somehow that reminds me of other sci-fi movies, even the Alien series.  You’re seeing complex political plotting, but within the confines of one solar system rather than across the galaxy (like in Star Wars and Star Trek).  Mao’s abduction is supposed to hold the clue to the fate of mankind (rather like Ridley Scott’s idea for “Prometheus”, maybe).

The series will have 10 one-hour episodes through early February.

SyFy offers a video summarizing the worlds of 2315.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Zakaria, on his CNN GPS show, interviews rejected Syrian refugee and a New York writer who interviewed her


Today. Fareed Zakaria started his Global Public Square by responding to Donald Trump’s proposals by saying that he (Zakaria) was born a Muslim, but has led a secular life.

Zakaria presented writer Brandon Stanton, author of “Humans of New York” (St. Martins), which he supports with a detailed photography blog here.

Stanton interviews “random” people he meets and publishes their stories.  The blog is very popular and it makes me wonder about why I can’t get out of my own special narrative and deal more with “others”. The concept reminds me of Anthony Lacey’s “Dining with Strangers”.

Stanton and Zakaria presented a Syrian refugee, Aya, who, with her family, had fled Iraq to Syria and then to Turkey.  At age 20, she supports her family working as an interpreter. She had applied to come to the US and thought she would be accepted, when the family got a letter in the mail denying asylum for “other” reasons related to security. Stanton, almost in tears himself, explained that the government does not have to give much of a reason for denying issue.  He said many refugee families have one disabled members and many have one PhD. However, the question remains why Turkey would not be a satisfactory country for her family, as it is moderate, modern, and relatively stable.

Zakaria also showed a proposed Gondola system for Mexico.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bourdain's "Back to Beirut": Anthony dines with woman who raises existential point about freedom v. security


I finally saw Anthony Bourdain’s “Back to Beirut” as part of his “Parts Unknown” series.  CNN has a basic link here.  I didn’t realize that imdb has these episodes indexed now, here.  The Travel Chanel also carries some of his episodes under “No Reservations”.


Bourdain did cover the most recent history of violence (around 2006, although there was an attack on Nov. 12, just before the Paris attacks). But socially, according to Bourdain, the city (also spelled "Beyrouth") is quite tolerant and open, especially for the Middle East.

Bourdain talked to a young woman from Damascus, who described horrors of the social climate in Syria even in areas that don’t have as much violence.  The young woman made an existential remark about whether more freedom should be allowed it if can cost more human lives.
 
There were scenes of modern skyscrapers rising out of uncleared rubble.
 
The episode could be compared to the short film “Beirut Is a House of Many Rooms” discussed on my movies blog Nov. 9, which I saw in a special concert showing in NYC.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Roman Baths in Beirut by Radi83, under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.5 license.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Michael Buble does Christmas special from Hollywood on NBC


Tonight, NBC aired “Michael Buble’s Christmas in Hollywood”, main link here.
 
I used to hear the Canadian “gospel” singer Buble on Sirius “The Blend” and noticed his gentle style.  I actually thought his last name was “Bubble” (like Michael Jackson’s chimp).

Buble made a wisecrack about the perfect climate in winter in Los Angeles, and said that the dreams for most people who come to become movie stars tend to melt into “slush”.



Performers included Celine Dion, Sharon Jones with the Dap Kings, and Tori Kelly. Buble performed a new song, “The More You Give, the More You Have” (available for sale, presumably on iTunes, Dec. 4).
 
Buble in past years has done similar shows in New York City and Vancouver.

Picture: I'm not sure exactly what lot Buble performed on (NBC Burbank?); the picture is my own from Disneyland in Anaheim CA in 2012.  

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Donald Trump gets deposed by Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight"


Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Don Lemon on CNN interviewed Donald Trump for about 50 minutes (long enough for an hour examination!) at 10 PM, on "CNN Tonight" with the primary link here

Trump claims he is saying what the grass roots really thinks but doesn’t want to admit.  He did “waffle” at the edges a bit on the “ban (almost) all Muslims” from entering the country. But he said we had to admit, we have a problem.  We don’t know why this particular religion generates a minority with such an existential religious or cult-like hatred of the rest of the world.

Trump was incorrect this evening in saying that Farook was radicalized by his wife.  Later information suggests he had already considered an attack in 2012 and may have let the marriage be arranged to abet his terrorist plans  (Fox story), as a sham.  So Farook had been heavily radicalized long before the Islamic State was getting a lot of attention and had started its Internet recruiting (which Trump wants to stop, as below).

Trump seems willing to sacrifice individual people for the common good if those people are on the periphery of what he sees as a national security problem. Tuesday, he was reported on NBC as wanting to turn off a lot of the Internet, at least “amateur” use of it that allows recruiting. I can imagine how he could back up this idea with existential arguments (my main blog, Tuesday).
 
This sacrifice might be appropriate when we are truly at “war”, and major terrorist acts might be interpreted as war against a civilian population, as with London in 1940 when bombed by the Nazis.  Asymmetric warfare makes smaller actors much more dangerous to large civilian populations than in the past.  Terrorism intends to promote political strife by forcing governments to attack their homelands (so they can claim victimhood) and also to reduce personal freedoms in the western countries that get attacked. So Trump is playing into the plans of terrorists.

Trump defended the usual right wing position on gun control, which is that gun control simply disarms citizens but doesn’t keep weapons out of the hands of determined criminals or enemies.  Some on the right, including sheriffs in rural areas, make the “Swiss” argument that citizens have a moral obligation to be able to defend themselves and their families.

Some political commentators still maintain tonight that Trump has a good chance of getting the GOP nomination and even getting elected, because of grass roots support.

Trump keeps on characterizing himself as a “smart guy” who can fix all the world’s problems himself.  That sounds like Lyndon LaRouche in the 1970s.

I would ask, why doesn’t Trump talk about protecting infrastructure, most of all the power grids (all three of them), which of course are fundamental to the Internet (and to our way of life).  He hasn’t mentioned EMP or solar storms or cyber-terror (as with books like “Lights Out” or “One Second After”)  the way Newt Gingrich has.



Above, Omarosa says “Trump is too real for the GOP”.


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

"The Leftovers" Season 2 Finale: a trial run of the Afterlife for Kevin? He lives here now.


I didn’t make the time commitment to follow HBO’s “The Leftovers” (I used to follow some series, like “The Event” and “Flash Forward”) – but “Under the Dome” didn’t hold me) so I can’t comment in the intricacies of the plot, which in Season 2 seems quite expanded from Tom Perrotta’s novel, tracing a number of characters.  Damon Lindelof joined the screenwriting

The Season 2 Finale, (75 minutes, directed by Mimi Leder) much of it happening in the magical west Texas town of Jarden (a place like Fort Stockton or Marathon comes to mind), and a bomb threat to a major river bridge and a surrounding tent city is a major part of the story.  The episode is titled “I Live Here Now” (as if inspired by Ram Dass's book "Be Here Now" from Lama Foundation), and the most noteworthy part, for my time, is the narrative of Kevin (Justin Theroux). In a flashback, he emerges from the “undead” from a lakebed after he had jumped in the river previously while two young women were clandestinely joining the Guilty Remnant. Later, he gets shot in the chest by John (Evan Carroll).  He “comes to” in a motel bathroom, as the camera focuses not only on the blood but the tattoos, even on his legs. He gains strength and goes to the bedroom, where he finds the plasma TV doesn’t work.  He goes down a staircase – and the camera doesn’t show the outside “world” to a karaoke session in a bar, where he has to sing “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel.  Only then can he return to Jarden.

The hotel may be in “Purgatory” or on another planet (whether an angelic colony on Titan [where gravity would be low], or maybe on an earth-sized planet around one of the Gliese stars).  We don’t get to see what it looks like outside; he’s sheltered by some kind of synecdoche. Anyway, his progression back to life (from the “Undead”) is rather like coming out of general anesthesia from surgery, with your memory blocked.

Are the “Undead” connected to those who disappeared in the Great Departure?  Sounds plausible, Jarden, remember, did not lose a single person.  And all the reviews on the Internet suggest that where “The Departed” (pun) went is supposed to be an unsolvable enigma, even if there is a Season 3.  In any case, Kevin can return to some sort of normal family life, and “just live” first.



The show gets a little tiresome with the Guilty Remnant members writing out messages, not speaking, and chain smoking. The Guilty Remnant also stalks people and practically forces people to join their cult.  What does this sound like?

Sophie Gilbert and Spencer Kornhaber have a detailed review of the finale in the Atlantic, here.

I rather wish this had been a movie, so you could get the story without so much time commitment. The premise finally comes across as related to “Resurrection”.


Monday, December 07, 2015

"CNN Heroes" airs underneath a whale in a New York City museum; Anderson hugs a sloth


Sunday night, December 6, 2015, Anderson Cooper played host to the annual “CNN Heroes”, this time at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, with a huge whale hanging from the ceiling over the dinner tables.  The link is here.

The winner is Maggi Doyle, who was inspired by a visit to Nepal in 2006, torn by civil war, after college at young adultlhood.  She met one little girl and decided to stay and build a school, having asked her parents to wire her past babysitting money. The charity also provides homes for children in Nepal.

I’ll mention a few others that caught my attention.

Monique Pool runs Green Heritage Fund Suriname, which protects animals.  She was introduced by a sloth (“Snooki”) who hugged Anderson on stage.



Dr. Jim Withers (introduced by Zachary Quinto) in Pittsburgh goes out two or three nights a week dressed as a “bum” and provides medical care and personal attention to the homeless.  At one point, Withers says this can happen to anyone, and a lot of life is a matter of fortune and luck.  But most of “us” avoid interacting with people who seemed not to be in our world.  The link is here. His operation is called Operation Safety Net.

Sean Gobin runs Warrior Hikes, largely along the Appalachian Trail, for combat veterans.  The segment concluded with spectacular scenery on top of (the Knife Edge of) Mt. Katahdin, Maine, in Baxter State Park.  I visited the park in 1976 but climbed only as high as the lake, but did encounter a bear.

There was another person, a teen who organized kids to fix computers for low-income people, who I don’t see listed among the top ten.

Wikipedia attribution link for public domain image of Mt. Katahdin from the lake I reached; photo by TJ aka Teej.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sanjay Gupta looks at creativity as a personality trait, and then at the education of profoundly gifted kids at Davidson


CNN offers a series of brief reports on Saturday afternoons called “Vital Signs” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

On December 4, Gupta interviewed Mason Currey  author of “Daily Rituals”, about the question about what inspires creativity or what sets apart “creative people”, which we normally take to mean creators of content (or problem-solvers).  This would include musicians, authors, composers, inventors, and theoretical physicists.   Currey indicated that “creative” people tend to like set routines, where set aside time to work alone, often in the mornings. Beethoven started composing early every morning after a ritual, making his own coffee from exactly 60 beans.  It can be hard to create “on the road”, so the idea of artists' retreats in the woods (especially for music composers) isn't as common as often portrayed.  We see “creative people” as disinclined to become dedicated to selling the wares of other people, or to manipulating others.



Back in the 1970s, Paul Rosenfels, and the Ninth Street Center, presented creativity as a personal discipline for those who live outside the social support system for approved family relationships (and this is obviously changing now with cultural norms and even same-sex marriage).  “Creativity” can involve openness to a certain intimacy with others who might have been viewed as less “attractive” by conventional social standards, while at the same time eschewing fame for the sake of more immediate living in a community.  This is a difficult topic.
 
Gupta also visited the Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public day school for profoundly gifted learners, I believe in Reno, link here. This seems to be the same as the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, here.  Taylor Wilson (Issues blog Nov. 7, 2015) is reported to have attended here.


I also wanted to note a favorite float on the Thanksgiving Day Macy's Parade on NBC:  The toy baseball stadium.  The outfield wasn't very big.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

VICE Special Report "Countdown to Zero" on HBO plays on World AIDS Day, ending with a report on Timothy Ray Brown, cured "incidentally" of HIV with a special stem cell transplant for leukemia


HBO aired a VICE Special Report on “Countdown to Zero” on the 20th World AIDS Day on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, link here.

Shannon Smith presided over a documentary on current and recent efforts to eventually rid the world of HIV.

Now there are 37 million total cases since 1981, with a million deaths a year.  Back around 1982, I recall a conversation (at a meeting in a Dallas hotel where CDC’s James Curran attended and the word “AIDS” was invented) predicting “9 million deaths”.

The documentary presented the work on “long term non-progressors”: a handful of elderly men who may have been infected in the 1980s but never developed symptoms or profound T4-cell loss.  Are their T4-cells different in some way that the virus has trouble entering?  Does natural resistance exist in nature?

The program explained the progress with protease inhibitors, which work well with patients who can afford them, and which have fewer side effects now than in the past (the “protease paunch” is pretty much a thing of the past).

The show moved to Africa, to South Africa and Rwanda, and interviewed former president George W. Bush in Texas about the international programs of his own administration.  He looks older now.



The history of Timothy Ray Brown, who had HIV eradicated, as presented. Brown was HIV positive and developed leukemia.  He got a stem cell transplant to cure the leukemia, but it was decided to use donors with a “CCR5” gene which configures the surface of a T4 cell so that it is very difficult for the HIV virus to enter.  The gene occurs in northern Europe among populations that survived the plague six centuries ago. The transplant was done in Dresden, Germany (which I actually visited in May 1999).  He may be the only person completely cured of HIV so far. But the technique could be used with successive plasmapheresis to replace most of the T4 cells eventually with cells with the desirable mutation.  Wikipedia has the story here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ray_Brown   Besides his pancreatic cancer test, maybe making a process like this work will get the attention of Jack Andraka once in or after medical school in a few years.

This film is being shown in 52-minute episodes as a TV series but seems to also be formatted for release by Magnolia Pictures, with production from Participant Media.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

CNN 70s: "Crimes and Cults"


Last night, I caught up on CNN’s “The 70’s” (or “The Seventies”) with “Crimes and Cults” which overlapped the  “Face of Evil” special report about the Charles Manson Murders.  This report started out with that but moved on to cases like the Hillside, Son of Sam, and Ted Bundy, Sarah Moore’s attempted assassination of Gerald Ford.  The basic link is here.

 The multiple escapes by the psychopathic Bundy, and the threats and plans of “Son of Sam” (subject of a Spike Lee movie. “Summer of Sam”) were shocking.

One interesting fact was that people in many large cities (especially New York, where I was living 1974-1978) violent crime and burglary (even from fire escapes into apartment buildings) was a preoccupation.  It has come to seem that way since then since about 2007 in some cities, like Washington, as crime today seems brazen and connected to nihilism and terrorism. In the South Bronx, buildings were torched, often intentionally by landlords. The episode covered the power blackout if July 13, 1977, which was caused by lightning strikes on plants along the Hudson River farther north.  I was walking near the West Fourth Street station when it happened.  It was a hot night and we didn’t work the next day (in lower Manhattan).  There was a lot of looting in poorer neighborhoods, especially Crown Heights.



The episode also covered the Jim Jones cult in Jonestown, Guyana (the birthplace of Daron Wint in the Washington DC Mansion murders).  Several documentary films cover it better.  The Congressman Leo Ryan who went had people passing him notes that there was trouble.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

ABC 20-20: Donald Trump and family are deposed by Barbara Walters


Friday night. ABC News 20-20 presented “Donald Trump: The Presidential Candidate: Part I” with Barbara Walters, major link here.

The episode tended to focus on Trump’s family, especially his adult sons and daughter, and their loyalty to his work ethic.

The show de-emphasized the bellicosity of some of his speeches during the candidacy.  However, recently Trump has said that the idea of a database for Muslims came from a reporter’s mouth, not his.  He talked about “good management”.

He was asked about the refugee issue.  Trump seems to feel that it is impossible to screen new refugees adequately now, ironically and tragically because their homelands were destroyed. Trump did not accept the idea of accepting only “Christian” refugees.



The show also gave some family history, of how Trump’s father gave him a real head start in the real estate business.

It is true that the hype over his “You’re fired” trademark got a bit overdone during his reign on “The Apprentice” and the “Boardroom” (which was set up).  He did have a number of outstanding candidates over the years (including Omarosa).   Candidates actually lived in a hotel that he provided during seasons. The show has tended to migrate toward Celebrity Apprentice for charity, and Shark Tank on ABC.  I wonder how Trump would react to the life histories and careers of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and maybe now Taylor Wilson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"The Brain" looks into non-biological platforms for consciousness


The Brain with David Eagleman” continued (maybe concluded) tonight on PBS with  “Who Will We Be?

The opening was less challenging sci-fi stuff, like teaching the brain to develop new senses.  In one experiment, a man wears a device that transfers vibrations to his chest to be associated with messages.  There is also a lot of coverage of robotics, as a woman learns to control a robotic arm just with thoughts, after transcranial magnetic stimulation.

But then the episode moves into the nature of human consciousness and identity.  It covers cryrogenics, and the practice of freezing the bodies or brains of rich dead people who are banking on the idea of coming back to life.  I could imagine a sci-fi scenario where this could even happen in a hospice.

Eagleman notes that when someone “dies”, all the information in his or her brain is lost (one brain contains about as many bytes as all the computers in the world now).  Maybe it goes onto the surface of a black hole, to be covered, but then maybe it can leak out in Hawking Radiation.  (That’s my theory, which gets interesting if you add other dimensions from string theory which allow for micro black holes.)  But what seems to produce consciousness is not just the brain, but the ability of the brain to integrate the information “correctly”
 .


The findings are supported with a brain-mapping of a younger male.  This seems to be part of the Blue Brain Project with Dr. Telefont in Switzerland, where a complete simulation of a brain by 2023 is the goal. Eagleman suggests that if all the information in a brain is mapped and the “methods” (to use OOP language) are properly simulated, then maybe one person’s consciousness can be restarted without a biological body, which could be a way for future generations to do space travel.  It’s possible that alien civilizations could reproduce consciousness without biological bodies as we understand them, and that could be a natural process in the Universe.

Brain mapping has been theorized in some science-fiction, like in “The Matrix Trilogy”.  How do we know, Eagleman asks as he stands near a modern Metro station (I think it’s Shanghai) that we aren’t living in someone’s holographic simulation.  There is no way to prove we don’t.  Dreams (the Christopher Nolan movie “Inception”) provide the examination of consciousness with an interesting problem.

Maybe gender won’t matter and reproduction won’t matter.  The analogy of an ant colony or bee hive is mentioned, where it seems there is consciousness at the group level.  Among higher animals, it is possible that orcas or dolphins can “distribute” consciousness.  It seems that higher mammals (carnivores and primates, and some others like elephants, and cetaceans) do share the experience of mapping individuality to the brain.

Back in the 1990s, Omni Magazine had suggested downloading the brain to a computer as an alternative to death. Also, this evening,

Earlier this evening,  HBO gave a 12-minute featurette on the upcoming film "The Danish Girl" about a transgender woman (from man) int he 1920s, played by Eddie Redmayne. Sexual and gender identity present interesting problems for brain science.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

NBC Dateline unscrambles bizarre domestic murder case in the Arizona highlands


NBC Dateline on Saturday aired “The Mystery on Bridle Path”, about the murder of Carol Kennedy, in her ranch home near Prescott Arizona on a Saturday night in July 2008.  Eventually her ex-husband, Steven DeMocker, 53 at the time, would be convicted on largely circumstantial evidence. The motive simply seemed to be money.  Even his own daughters helped pay for his defense. Keith Morrison hosted the documentary which, as presented, is as intriguing as a typical Hollywood murder mystery film. This one has some shades of Perry Mason.

Kennedy was on the phone with her mother in Nashville when an intruder bludgeoned her suddenly, in what looked like a home invasion. The defense tried to half-implicate another man who apparently had lived on the property.

DeMocker would be sentenced to life without parole, but the jury took three days to convict, in a retrial (after the first judge had a brain tumor).  One piece of contradictory evidence (DNA under fingernails) turned out to be forensic contamination. The AP story on the case is here.

The use of only circumstantial evidence is still permissible. That was the case in the recent conviction of Charles Severance for three murders (in 2003, 2013, 2014) of high-profile citizens in Alexandria Virginia recently.   Dateline will probably eventually do an episode on this case.  No one has yet done a show of on two unsolved separate murders of workers with high security clearances in Prince Georges County in late 2008 (discussed on this blog before), where there are some obscure social media clues.

NBC's embed link for this show went with the wrong link, the Democratic Party debate tonight, from CBS,

But CBS 48 Hours has a video of Carol Kennedy's work as an artist, her "sanctuary" and print studio.
Picture is actually Nevada (my visit, 2012).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"The Brain with David Eagleman": inborn neural circuits explain social interaction, susceptibility to propaganda, and the price of giftedness


Tonight, WETA on PBS aired “The Brain with David Eagleman” (link), an episode called “Why Do I Need You?” The program was sponsored by the American Brain Foundation.

Eagleman explored how the brains of human beings do seem to be pre-wired to read each other for social cues, even on the basis of children with little accumulated opportunity to learn interactions.



The prewiring also enables people to empathize with fictional characters in books or movies, and is the basis of much entertainment.

People with less pre-wiring seem to have trouble picking up social cues and are sometimes viewed as having mild forms of development disorder, autism, called Asperger syndrome.

On the other hand, others the lack of empathy for others results in psychopathy.  But people with Asperger would seem often to develop empathy on a moral and intellectual behavior, so they still follow behavior according to an expected moral compass.  Sometimes less immediacy in receiving visual cues about others allows one more energy to develop one’s own gifts, in intellectual or artistic pursuits.

Eagleman went on to explain group behavior in terms of neurology, even genocide or ethnic cleansing.  He explained the way propaganda works at a neurological level, which is why it is so important to dictators (most recently Vladimir Putin, who sees gay rights in terms of “propaganda” rather than intellect).  Propaganda can be overcome by education, and some people are obviously less easily influenced by it than others, based on both education and genetics.

It would be interesting to see what Eagleman comes up with regarding sexual orientation and gender identity (two separate concepts).

An earlier episode “What Makes Me?” purports to explain individual consciousness and identity in terms of the wiring image accumulation of every experience a person has, which can never again be duplicated by anyone else.  Does the memory survive as a afterlife?

Monday, November 09, 2015

So "The Donald" has nothing better to do than host SNL?


So Donald Trump gets great ratings on an SNL show nobody liked? Link   And he hosts it because he has nothing better to do?  And he holds no grudges except for Rosie O’Donnel (and Omarosa.


I had forgotten he had hosted it in 2004.

So how are we going in Syria?

It seemed as if the comments about race in the audience might seem over the top now, given what has happened today in Missouri.

Given the furor (in 2005) over the idea that “blogging” could amount to untrackable political contributions (that died down), why isn’t it a “problem” for a candidate to appear on a network comedy show?


If someone I know personally gets to host SNL, how easily could I get tickets?  Remember Taylor Lautner hosted it before his 18th birthday, and Shia did it when he was 20. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

"The Player": well, there is a dealer and a pit boss, too, as the rich gamble on crime plots


The Player” (created by John Rogers and John Fox) is a somewhat underwhelming crime series on NBC, whose name lies in the shadow of the famous 1992 Robert Altman movie, a meta-plot involving murder among screenwriters.

The shell around the plot is that the “rich” place cynical bets on the chances that certain crime plots will succeed.  Alex Kane (Philip Winchester) is “The Player”, whereas Cassandra King (Charity Whitfield) is the “dealer” and Isaiah Johnson (Wesley Snipes) is the “pit boss” claiming to be undercover FBI.

The episode tonight was “A House Is Not a Home” and moves to Chicago.  It involves a terror plot where a woman is set up as a “suicide bomber” in an elevator, and is rescued by Kane, who throws her out of the elevator and then dives away from the explosion.  Later a home is detonated as Kane is the target.

The official site is here.


 
The series has not done particularly well, as the concept seems rather too clever and artificial.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

"Life on Mars: The Amazing Rovers" aired on NatGeo, and disappeared


On Sunday, Nov. 1, National Geographic aired a new episode “Life on Mars: The Amazing Rovers”.  For some reason, the video link no longer works.
 
Wikipedia has an interesting comparison on the “careers” of both Opportunity (still active) and Spirit (which “died” in 2011), here

 Opportunity has lasted much longer than expected.

The one hour episode presented commentary by Stephen Squyres and “driver” Scott Maxwell.

The lives of the robotic rovers were extended by carefully placing them to get maximum solar power, and to rest them in winter when sunlight was weak.  A day on Mars is called a “Sol”.

NatGeo has some slightly older footage of the rovers on YouTube.


 
Mars is a lonely place with a uniform general landscape, but with the highest mountains and deepest and longest canyons in the Solar System.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

CNN airs "Bush v. Gore: The Endless Election" to honor the 15th anniversary of the circus in Florida


Monday night, CNN Presents aired “Bush v. Gore: The Endless Election”, best link here.
 
I was in a bar in St. Paul MN at an event hosted by the Libertarian Party of Minnesota, watching it, seeing Florida called for Gore.  I didn’t hear that the call had been retracted until I left, as the I drove to another party in Eden Prairie, and heard the news on my car radio as I stopped at a railroad crossing and as it started to snow.

Then, for days, CNN focused only on the 2000 election (15 years ago) and all the goings-on in Florida (I seem to recall Bill Hemmer).  Other events, like the USS Cole bombing (a precursor to 9/11) were slighted.

A coworker pulled up the Butterfly Ballot online to show it wasn’t confusing.  But it could have been troublesome for the disabled.  And it had been designed by Democrats. (No wonder John Sayles made a movie called "Sunshine State".)

We will never know what would have happened it the counting had continued.  It’s not certain by any means that Gore would have won, but he might have.  (There is a lot of coverage in the CNN documentary of retracted concessions on both sides.)  And personally, I think a Gore administration would have been more capable of intercepting 9/11 before it actually happened.  The Clinton administration had caught a West Coast plot at Y2K.

And I do remember the evening that Bush v. Gore was decided by the Supreme Court, rather lawlessly.

The moral, to win an election legitimately, you need a landslide, a blowout, at least three touchdowns (or at least five runs).

Monday, November 02, 2015

Anthony Bourdain returns to a remote village in Borneo and loses (even sacrifices) his chest


Anthony Bourdain continues (in an episode that premiered Nov. 1 at 9 PM, competing with Natgeo’s “Breakthrough”)  his worldwide adventure (that has even included his home state of New Jersey), this time to Borneo, for a repeat visit to the Malaysian side, completing something left open from 1999.  And what that yearning was becomes pretty curious and gives this episode an unusual sense of suspense (rivaled only by his visit to Congo). His own link is here.

He starts out in Kuala Lumpur (site for 1999 film “Entrapment”), exploring the food in a modern city, before he gives some hints as to what awaits him on the islands (and it reminds me of the Di Caprio movie “The Beach” back in 2000). There’s a hint when he pulls aside his shirt and shows a relatively innocuous shoulder tattoo from 1999.



He goes up the river, finding much of the island deforested by loggers, before he returns to the native villages, where there will be a three day food-and-drinking party which is bizarre enough.  They are off the grid, with no cell phone signals.  This is the kind of merriment that intentional communities sell. But he has an appointment, and the episode leads up to it (much like the “Nighthike in one of my sci-fi screenplays, called “Titanium”).  At the end, he’s going to get it.  A tribesman will pound a sizable tattoo right into his sternum, right above the chakra, where there should be hair, but it’s all gone now, forever.  Bourdain, by sacrificing his chess as if a knight in a chess game, has become a symbolic wicker man (but Nicholas Cage would make a better victim, still).

In the long line to get into Town Danceboutique Halloween night, there was a guy, shirt torn open, who had gotten it at some lover’s hands, now already for Borneo, which cannot do him any more wrong.

Wikipedia attribution link for image of illegal settlement in Sabah, easternmost part of Malaysia  author by CCFoodTravel, under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Update: Nov. 5

An a for Direct TV sacrifices an actor's chest for a huge tattoo. The actor definitely "gets it".

"Breakthrough" on NatGeo starts with "Fighting Pandemics", about Ebola in Liberia in 2014


The National Geographic Channel led off a new series called “Breakthrough” Nov. 1 with a one-hour episode “Fighting Pandemics”, directed by Peter Berg, link.



The episode traced the shocking explosion of Ebola in west Africa in 2014.  It did not get into the controversial tragedy in Texas, but it did cover in detail the history of Ian Crozier, who was in intensive care for over 40 days at Emory University in Atlanta late in 2014.  Crozier, a physician, talked about taking his own blood sample when he suspected symptoms and the agonizing wait.  He became even more ill than some other physicians (like Brantley) who survived. It was feared that he would have brain damage, but he finally recovered fully.  However, in December 2014 he experienced some temporary vision loss in one eye, where Ebola had “colonized” (in a body area that is immunosuppressed).  His eye color even changed.  He got anti-virals injected into the eye and his sight recovered.

Crozier seems to have resumed practicing in Liberia.

The documentary covered the way new antibody serums are developed and tested.

By coincidence, the title series is the same as Jack Andraka's book "Breakthrough" about the high school student's (now a freshman at Stanford) science fair project that discovered an inexpensive pancreatic cancer test (Book reviews March 18, 2015).  Maybe Jacks' project would make for a good episode in the series in the future.

Wikipedia attribution link "Ebola Pathenogensis path" by Ebola__Pathenogensis.svg: ChyranandChloederivative work: ChyranandChloe (talk) - Ebola__Pathenogensis.svg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

"Troublemaker": Leah Remini explains her severance from Scientology on 20-20


Troublemaker:  Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” is a new book by Leah Remini, and also an episode Friday Oct. 30 on ABC 20-20. Dan Harris hosted and interviewed her, along with  David Muir, Elizabeth Vargas.



ABC’s video link for the show (requires cable subscription) is here.

In the early part of the interview she explained her exposure to Scientology as a little girl.  The religion was supposed to “free mankind” (to move up “The Bridge to Total Freedom”) and requires quick maturation of children.  She was encouraged to join Sea Org.  She signed a “contract” and became a “resident” in somewhat military-like conditions.  Scientology believes in reincarnation, and that contracts cover reincarnations.

The documentary showed a sample “auditing” session.   I recall passing an outdoor auditing booth near the Ballston Metro in Arlington VA about eight years ago.

Later in life, Remini moves from Florida, where she was brought up in the church, to Hollywood and eventually leaves the church.

There is a detailed history of her career, ties to Tom Cruise (including his wedding) and separation from the church here  and it isn’t easy to leave without strings attached.  The church does not appreciate being characterized, even by opinion, as a "cult". Forbes goes into more detail than the 20-20 episode on the disappearance of Shelly Miscaiage



Friday, October 30, 2015

RNC (not the same as the GOP) throws a tantrum at CNBC over debate moderation


So the crybaby RNC (in a letter  from Reince Priebus) to NBC News, suspends its agreement with NBC to host a candidate debate in February 2016.  The RNC “whines” that the CNBC moderatora asked offensive questions, like essentially whether Trump was becoming a comic book character.   (That’s all right, even college student and inventor Jack Andraka has made the comics, so Trump has good company.)  Let’s put Trump in a space suit and see how well he survives on Mars.  Another topic was Ashton Kutcher's favorite:  fantasy football.  Well, we used to play fantasy baseball with cardboard stadiums as kids.



The letter conceded that the NBC news division doesn’t exercise direct control over CNBC content. (I worked for NBC in information technology 1974-1977, and would work there again.)


Fox compared the debates to the New York Mets and pitcher Jacob De Grom’s loss in the second game in the World Series to pesky Kansas City hitters, link here  and said the CNBC moderators got a “bipartisan drubbing”.  Fortune’s account of the not-so-good-news is here.

But GOP campaigns may well revolt against the RNC, just as they fight each other, with a meeting in Washington on All Saints Day, here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Josh Hartnett (Minnesota born actor) interview shown on NBC4 in Washington


Cat Greenleaf interviewed actor Josh Hartnett on NBCWashington, apparently sitting in front of a NYC brownstone, with his dog. Subject: "Growing up famous".



Hartnett now starts in the Showtime series “Penny Dreadful”, a series based on British Victorian-era “Pulp Fiction”.

I met him at an IFPMSP function when I was living in Minneapolis.  Sometimes he came to functions at Bryant Lake Bowl (half incognito) on Lake Street in the city’s Uptown area.  I think he would remember me (and what my books are about).

I first saw him appear in the film “Halloween H20” in 1998, when he was 20, graduated from high school in St. Paul MN.  I’ve seen him in “Virgin Suicides”, “Black Hawk Down” and especially his breakout role “Pearl Harbor” in 2001. Also favorites of mine were "Wicker Park" (in Chicago, maybe for Cubs fans), "The Black Dahlia" and "30 Days of Night" (the latter near the North Pole, with a bizarre ending).

According to Wikipedia Hartnett has been involved in Democratic Party activism, with some emphasis on climate change and green issues.

I’ll have to check this Showtime series soon, which can be watched on Hulu.

Picture: Uptown area of Minneapolis, across street from Bar Abilene, near Landmark Lagoon and Uptown, 2011 (my re-visit).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"The Forever Family" on ABC 20-20 presents the rehoming of disabled adopted children



ABC “20-20” on Friday night, with Elizabeth Vargas and David Muir, presented “The Forever Family”, a story about the practice of “rehoming” adopted children who had been disabled (sometimes from overseas) and presented uncontrollable behavior problems for adoptive parents. The link for viewing (must log on to a cable provider) is here.

Specifically, the episode told the story of Arkansas State representative Justin Harris and wife Marsha, evangelical Christians south of Fayetteville AR, who had three sons of their own, and then built onto their house to adopt children, which they felt was a morally driven (and personally risky and costly) mission from God.

 Against the best wisdom of adoption agencies, they adopted three sisters from a troubled background. The oldest presented severe problems and was removed, but the couple still tried to keep the two younger kids, moving their own sons into their own bedroom.  They even put monitors on the girls’ rooms.  But they got into a legal bind where they could not give up the kids without being prosecuted, but used a legal loophole to “rehome” the kids to someone who stepped up.  Later there were reports that the girls wuld be sexually abused.

The girls had been diagnosed with RAD, or "reactive attachment disorder". In recent years, a few states have passed laws against "rehoming" but the practice was technically legal at the time it was used as described in this episode.
 


The episode presented adoption specialist Jan Wallis and foster parents Craig and Cheryl Hart.

Wikipedia attribution link for image by Brandon Rush from Fayetteville, AR, under Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike license.  I was in the area several times between 1979 and 1987.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Brain Surgery Live" on NatGeo happens while patient is conscious, to treat Parkinson's


The National Geographic Channel aired a two-hour special “Brain Surgery Live with Mental Floss”, with Bryant Gumbel hosting, link here. The program showed progress during brain surgery at the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) where the patient, a 49-year-old electrician remained conscious during the two hours where surgeons probed with electrical stimulus to cure Parkinson’s Disease, which had suddenly surfaced after he left the Navy.



The broadcast showed the anatomy of the brain, and explained that the folds increase surface area for “computing power”.
 
The surgeon is also an accomplished pianist, and the surgeon (standing 6 ft 5 in) explained that the skills in playing piano and doing fine surgery are similar.  One lead surgeon was female, and only 6% of all neurosurgeons are female now.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Newseum in Washington DC has new exhibit on how TV networks covered the Vietnam War


The Newseum in Washington DC has a new exhibit on the 6th floor on Reporting the War in Vietnam, including an 8-minute short film that shows the way network broadcast media presented the War, with some emphasis on CBS and Walter Cronkite.  I visited the exhibit today after the AUDSWalk nearby.



The Vietnam War was the first war to be regularized “televised” into American living rooms almost every day after about 1966.  At first, the press was somewhat supportive, and the Army looked upon the presence of war correspondents as increasing the pressure on the enemy.  But then some networks, especially CBS, began to show misdeeds by troops, including the burning of Vietnamese villages (as well as My Lai).  At one point, Lyndon Johnson even called Walter Cronkite and said that he (LBJ) was disappointed by the press’s lack of complicity.

After the Tet Offensive, on January 31, 2015, reporting from the networks became more “sober” with emphasis on casualties but less homage to the bravery of soldiers, many of whom had been drafted.

The public began to resist the war as casualties mounted.

It would be a good thing if the Newseum presentation covered the issue of the military draft and deferments more.  But this side of the war probably didn’t get as much coverage from the networks as did the War itself.  On campuses, it was the cause for great controversy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CNN airs detailed update report on "DC Mansion Murders"


CNN aired a special report Tuesday night on the “DC Mansion Murders” of the family (including one housekeeper) of Savvas Savopoulos, with the most up-to-date account of the May 2015 incident link here. It was hosted by Pamela Brown.



There have been many detailed accounts (an ABC account was reported here June 16) which are quite graphic and need not be recounted here.  CNN had a shorter report in June but this new one is much more detailed and longer (one hour). But one mystery is why still, five months later, only one suspect, Darron Wint, has been arrested, identified from DNA on a pizza slice.  The circumstances do suggest an extreme personal vendetta.  One criminal forensics expert said she could not explain why DC Police have not arrested more suspects.  It would seem unbelievable that any accomplice would have gone along with all the horror.  DC does not have the death penalty, so the maximum would be life in prison without parole for each count.

There is a bizarre story in the Observer about other immigrants from Guyana and a company in Queens NYC that appears to be the same company.  It has not been connected to the case by major media yet but might somehow have a connection, link here. It is possible for politically motivated acts to become “personal” (look at the Middle East), and in the past extreme Left-wing rhetoric (like back in the early 70s passing my ears at meetings) has sounded “personal”.  But Wint (born in Guyana), according to credible mainstream media reports, has a history of disturbing behavior and temper in the workplace and in personal life, unrelated to political or religious beliefs.  CNN did allow Wint’s former attorney to speak in his defense.

The area remains calm and the house is boarded up.  People will walk their dogs by it. It is curious that the Embassy of Finland consulate residence on Woodland Drive (about 1500 feet away) has a similar architecture and an address a few blocks down that is a permutation of digits (3021 vs 3201).

Monday, October 19, 2015

OWN presents "Belief": "Love's Story" makes it very personal (Episode 2)


Tonight, I tried Episode 2 of Oprah Winfrey’s “Belief” on her OWN network, called “Love’s Story”. The link is here. There are detailed journals at the sublinks.



The episode presented four challenging situations.

Ian and Larissa Murphy, as evangelical Christians, are challenged when, before marriage, Ian is severely brain-injured in an automobile accident. He seems to be slowly recovering speech in the episode.  I understand the strict idea of reserving sexuality until after marriage.  But would I be willing to even start an intimate relationship with someone disabled?  This will sound crass, but the answer for me is no.

The second segment of the hour presents two Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn, NY, Yermi Udkoff and Rena Greenberg, who enter an almost arranged marriage which defines their entire new identity.
 
The third part presents Jordan Richter, who grew up in California as the only son of a couple with drug issues.  He was emotionally neglected but had become a competitive skateboarder.  At around age 20, he looked for something to give him love and meaning and found the practice of Islam.  The episode shows him joining the Hajj.   The grand mosque with the Kaaba at night, with the green colors, is spectacularly shown. It's not clear from the show whether he has his own family, or whether the kids he is playing role model for are another family's.
 
The last part shows two former enemies in northern Nigeria: Christian pastor James Wuye, who had lost a hand and had it re-attached after a battle, and Muhammad Ashafa, former enemies, preaching forgiveness to their constituencies.  This had come from a reverse persecution of Muslims by Christians rather than from Boko Haram.
 
My own experience of God is connected to my perception of how the Universe (or multi-verse) must work.  The law of karma is usually impersonal, but in rare times it gets very personal.  That could be true of the Hajj, or of being born again. Yet, I cannot simply surrender my own self-defined purpose.
   
Wikipedia attribution link for map of the Hajj, by Ascetic Rose, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike License.  Second picture is mine, Red Hook in Brooklyn at night. Feb. 2013.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"A Case of Affluenza" on ABC 20-20: privileged teen gets oly


Friday night, Oct. 16, ABC 20-20 covered “A Case of Affluenza”, with re-watch link here. This is the case of Ethan Couch, sentenced to only ten years’ probation after driving “drunk” near his family home in theft. Worth, TX area (fact pattern ) and causing an accident killing four and involving 14 people.



At trial, a psychologist apparently started the “affluenza” defense by claiming that Couch’s privileged upbringing caused him to become unable to link consequences to bad choices.   In my own experience (working as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s, and then meeting people at suburban churches where income levels are high and a lot of parents have high-achieving teens in high school and college) this just seems totally silly.

The case has brought up the social justice issue of a “double standard” of justice for rich and poor, which might even seem sharper now in light of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

HBO's Project Greenlight is back, with Matt and Ben, and a controversial winning director Jason Mann making his own movie "The Leisure Class"

   
After many years of hiatus, Project Greenlight is back, with a series on HBO.


On September 13, 2015, HBO aired a new pilot  (“Do You Want to Direct this Movie?”, 42 minutes) for the 2015 contest, where the team (led by bulked up Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) interview the top 20 candidates, in a VIP suite in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.  It seems like a Saturday morning.

The candidates had to submit three-minute short films.  This time around, there was no writing contest, only a directors’.  Will there be a screenplay contest in 2016?  I wonder.  If so, an announcement would probably happen about the time of the Oscars.  At least that's how it was in 2004.
 
The winner would get a $3 million budget to direct a “broad comedy” for HBO, called “Not a Pretty Woman”, which includes a black hooker and white pimp.  (Please, bring on “Hustle and Flow”.)
Some of the contestants were teams, and clips of many shorts were shown (like “Living with Jigsaw”). Jason Mann, tall and gaunt with a crewcut, gave a bizarre interview in which he seemed to waffle on wanting to do the project.  But Matt and Ben got intrigued, and probed him with questions that would have seemed more appropriate for my own film.  I felt like they were doing the interview for me!

Mann’s short film had been “Delicacy”. Don’t know if this was in DC Shorts or submitted to it.



The team felt that Mann was the best filmmaker, even if risky, because he would change the comedy into something darker, more eclectic, more political, and less commercial for a broad audience with investors concerned about ratings.  But they can’t resist, and name him the winner at the big event in LA.

In the elevator, Mann tells Matt and Ben that he wants to shoot on film, not video, and wants to fire the writer.

Picture: View from the bar of the Angelino Hotel on the 405, my visit to LA, 2012.

During the interviews, Damon and Affleck had mentioned that they realized diversity in casting matters (that’s going to be a problem for my own screenplay now, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”).

 The also talked about screenwriting as a profession, the idea that movies need to hire professional writers even for very original stories from authors.  It seems like they set up these interviews for me.
Then, it seems that Mann talked HBO into doing his own script, “The Leisure Class” (based on another short film script by Mann) instead.

On Oct. 11, PG aired “Picture’s Up”.  In shooting the film, Mann runs into a Beverly Hills ordinance not to shoot after 9 PM.  The staff tries to get signatures from homeowners for an exception.  Mann is faced with rewriting a lot of the script to make the story work during the daytime.  The story concerns a man trying to marry into a wealthy family, and seems to be more like a satire (on class and privilege) than conventional comedy.