Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Growing Up Trans" on PBS Frontline, first major film on transgender children seeking change

Tuesday, June 30, PBS aired a 83-minute Frontline documentary “Growing Up Trans”, link here. 

I think this is the first film that I can recall about transgendered children, actually starting transitions.

The film paid as much heed to female-to-male transitions as the supposedly more common male-to-female.

Boys were told to expect hair to recede slightly at the temples and crown as well as appear on the beard and later body, often first the legs.  Once a voice changes, it cannot be undone.  Taking testosterone could bring future increased risks in the cancer and heart disease area. 
There were surely eventually be female-to-male professional sports players (for example, probably most likely with pitchers in baseball). However sports will have to look carefully on what medications are acceptable (that is, not performance-enhancing). 
I was quite struck be the change in social view since the time I was growing up.  There was more emphasis on the idea that gender conformity was a moral requirement (even if demanding personal sacrifice) for the good of family and community, which might have to defend itself and prosper in a potentially hostile external environment.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

ABC "In an Instant": "Bad Guys at the Good Guys": the biggest domestic hostage rescue in US history, and a communist-related terror attack

Saturday night, a repeated episode of ABC’s “In an Instant” covered the April, 1991 Sacramento hostage crisis at a Good Guy’s Electronics Store. Wikipedia has the factual story here. This was the largest hostage rescue in US history.  The episode is titled “Bad Guys at the Good Guys”  with link here

Four refugees from Vietnam (three were brothers) stormed a Good Guys electronics store with handguns and a shotgun and held about forty people, customers and employees, hostage, making outrageous demands. It became apparent that their motive was more to make a political statement about their frustration of living in the US. The idea was direct intimidation, to “bring low” civilians and make others walk in their shoes.

Such psychology has gotten attention from radical Islam, of course, since 9/11, and with ISIS. But it is known in secular totalitarian revolutionary ideology, too, especially communism. The behavior of the attackers reminds one of the Khmer Rouge, for example.  This incident precedes 9/11 by ten years and OKC by four, and even Waco by two. It's surprising that it isn't better remembered. 
Three hostages were killed, and fourteen wounded (eleven more were shot, including one young man who was shot in the knee in exchange for his freedom, to make a political point; the documentary does not say how he fared later).  One pregnant woman lost her baby (which now would be considered one more death in a murder prosecution). Three of the attackers were killed in the final raid, but one survived and was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences without parole.
Arguably, the act could have been viewed as an act of terrorism (if it happened now, it might evoke federal prosecution).  It might have been viewed as a reaction to US policy in Vietnam, which killed hundreds of thousands on both sides and still lost the war to communism in 1975.  Vietnam has since adopted statist capitalism resembling China’s.
I do recall overhearing (even in person) “terror” rhetoric from the extreme Left in the early 1970s (like the Weathermen and others), as I detail in Chapter 3 of my first DADT book (talking about the People’s Party of New Jersey).  Middle class professionals were viewed as part of the “pig” class who could have it coming to them.  In one of my (unpublished) novel manuscripts, secular communist infiltrators release radioactive plutonium in New York City (leading to chaos), and this plot was conceived by me in 1982 as fiction.  This idea wasn’t talked about much publicly, but was viewed as possible even during the Reagan years.  That was one reason for the “civilian defense reservist” program formed in the 1980s. 
Sacramento skyline (Photo by Mark James Miller), Wikipedia attribution link under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license.  My most recent visit was in Nov. 1995. 


Friday, June 26, 2015

CNN "The 70s": episodes about Watergate, Vietnam, under Nixon

Thursday night CNN aired episode 3 of “The Seventies: One Nation Under Change” with “Peace with Honor”, about the conclusion of the War in Vietnam (typical link).
Nixon’s bombing raids prompted even more protests and led to Kent State. He visited the troops once in late 1969 (while I was at Fort Eustis) and said we were winning, implementing a mine blockade of the north.  But gradually he developed a peace plan that allowed North Vietnamese soldiers to stay in the South and left the South Vietnamese to defend themselves, which led to the fall of Saigon in 1975, covered by the film.  CNN also covered Nixon’s formal visit to China in 1972, then like another planet.

I got caught up on Episode 2 with “United States v. Nixon”, of course about Watergate, which probably undermined the credibility of the US in Vietnam. 

After I left the Army in February 1970, I worked for RCA for a year, and was assigned in Indianapolis when Kent state happened. I worked for the Navy Department 1971-1972, and was there when Watergate started.  I was not really aware of it until 1973, when I was working for Univac and living in New Jersey and traveling a lot.  I started a job at NBC in New York City on Aug. 12, 1974 and would soon move into the City, so I remember the period well. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Gregory Smith's career grows with "Rookie Blue" while he experiments with short film

I’m impressed to see the career of (dual citizen) Canadian-American Gregory Smith, now 31, with episodes of “Rookie Blue” on ABC, as with Thursday June 25, with the repeat of the Season 6 premier, “Open Windows”. 
The unit solves some serial burglaries where one of the female officers beat off the attack.
Smith still plays geeky Dov Epstein, the gentle guy who runs everything behind the scenes. 

Gregory Smith had directed episode 6 “Home Run” on June 24 (the day before).  Smith’s turn to directing is quite interesting, including episodes of “Rookie Blue”, “Arrow” and “Saving Hope”.  His first short film is “Method” is also about a police officer. He talks about the short film above, but I haven’t been able to find the actual film online yet.   I still wonder what became of piano prodigy “Ephram”.
Smith’s career growth runs in parallel to Chris Pratt, who co-starred on “Everwood”.  I met them both at an event near Philadelphia in 2005.  Smith says he wants to direct a feature.  (Yes, he knows what the DADT books are.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PBS Frontline examines abuse of female undocumented janitorial workers on nightshift

PBS Frontline Tuesday night reported on “Rape on the Nightshift”, sexual assault of female janitors who work in practically every high rise office building in the country. The main link is here.   
The documentary looked at one of the major employers, ABM, and interviewed an attorney who went to work for them. 
The film indicated that there many other smaller companies in the business, and some undocumented workers are brought into the country with “debts” that allow abuse in the workplace.
These are jobs most of us wouldn’t want.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

CNN broadcasts live service from Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Today, CNN covered live the Sunday morning services at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.
The cameras were located in the balcony, looking down on the congregation.  The church did not seem to have air conditioning, as the worshippers used hand fans.
The sanctuary is quite beautiful, with two huge windows up front.  The presentation did provide an unusual sense of reality, as if I had taken a morning flight to Charleston just to go to the service.  Of course, watching something alone in a living room isn’t quite the same thing. 
The style of preaching was Pentecostal and emotional, rather than analytic and intellectual, with which I am more familiar.  This was a “turn it over to the Lord” sermon. The music was also Pentecostal, rather than formal. 
CNN’s HD link for the service rebroadcast is here.  It is not embeddable.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of church taken by AME church itself, under Creative Commons 2.0 License. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

ABC's "In an Instant": "Grizzly Bear Attack"

Tonight, I sampled ABC’s “In an Instant” series, a rerun from March, “Grizzly Bear Attack”, link here.

A middle aged man and his teen daughter are hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana, which is allegedly losing its glacier to climate change. I had tried to visit it in early May 1981 and found it not open yet.  I visited Yellowstone and Flathead Lake.
The daughter encounters a female grizzly bear around a corner in the trail.  There follows a desperate effort by the father to protect the daughter.  Both are severely injured. But the bear lets them go when she becomes convinced that they are no threat to her cub.  She probably doesn’t understand how much damage she has done.

Other hikers respond to their cries, and another woman runs four miles for help, as others give them blankets.  Despite the severe injuries, with eye and spine injures, the dad runs a marathon six months later.

John Walsh helps produce and notes the irony of the parent-child bond. 

I once encountered a female black bear in Shenandoah with a cub, but nothing happened.  I did not come between them, and she did not act threatened.  Maybe I had the right vibes.  Animals are better at reading people’s character than we realize. 
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Chief Mountain, p.d. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

ABC Nightline (on too late on East Coast) reviews Charleston shootings and suspect Dylann Root

It’s rather inconvenient for me that ABC Nightline doesn’t come on until 12:30 (after Jimmy Kimmel).  When I lived in Dallas I was used to Ted Koppel (at 10:30), often talking about South Africa, and in Minneapolis, often covering 9/11.

Last night Nightline covered “Charleston Suspect: What We Know About Dylann Roof”, link here (may require paywall signon with Cable provider).  This refers to Charleston SC (not WV).
What has emerged as a kid that dropped out of school after 9th Grade, went aimless while apparently raised by an uncle, who appeared oblivious to the dangers of weapons in the hands of teens or young adults who are drifting.  The president has again mentioned the weapons debate in the aftermath of the incident.
Later reports indicated that Roof naively thought he could start a “race war”.  One female was told she was left alive to report what he did.  There is indeed a belief among some terrorists that people should “pay” for what other members of their “group” did. ‘
CNN has an op-ed by Peter Bergen calling this terrorism, concerning the line between domestic terrorism (especially from the extreme right) and hate crimes.
Wikipedia attribution link to photo by ProfReader of Spoleto Opening, under Creative Commons Share Alike License3.0.  My last visit was in 1993 (to go to Patriot’s Point).  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ABC 20-20 airs special report on Washington DC "Mansion Murders" but many more details are still not public to media

On Friday, June 16, 2015, ABC News 20-20 aired a special report on the “DC Manson Murder” of three members of the family of Savvas Savopoulos and the housekeeper in the large home of the “Observatory” area of Washington DC, near the Vice President’s residence and many major embassies. The factual story   on Wikipedia is here.

ABC 20-20 offers many videos and interviews, the best one is probably one dealing with the details of the police investigation and many unanswered questions, link here.   As of June 16, the prime suspect is still Daron Dylan Wint who was arraigned today. Wint was born in Guyana and is a legal non-citizen resident. 
This is a developing story and many more facts from the police investigation and prosecution are likely to be much more public soon.  Washington DC does not have the death penalty under local law, although that can be possible if there were ever federal charges related to terrorism (whether the political motivation is religious or not) , as was the case in Massachusetts.  It is just an odd coincidence that Guyana was the site of Jonestown in 1978.

Update: June 23

CNN did a half-hour segment on the case tonight, as well as on the New York State prison escape.  In the mansion case, Wint's cousin had been fired from American Ironworks in 2005, and apparentlyICE (immigration) wasn't notified of an earlier conviction of Wint for receiving stolen property.

Update: Oct. 27, 2018

ABC News updated this report last night on 20-20 since Wint has been convicted.  Here is an update link.   


Monday, June 15, 2015

"Wayward Pines": Why are Secret Service agents visiting an Idaho cult in the first place?

Wayward Pines” sounds, as a title, like “The Place Beyond the Pines”.  Actually, the opening of the series (on Fox,  May 1, 2015), of a series developed by Chad Hodge after a novel by Blake Crouch, and pilot (“Where Paradise Is Home”) directed by M. Night Shyamalan, may remind one of “Twin Peaks”.
A US Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) gets in a car accident as he approaches the little town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, where he had been assigned to hunt for missing secret service agents Kate Hewson and Bill Evans.  Angent Stallings is missing after the attack.
He meets a bartender whose leads him to the corpse of Evans.  Soon he finds the sheriff rather uncooperative, to say the least.
Soon he is told  (by a “psychiatrist” played by Toby Jones) he needs neurosurgery after the attack.
As he peruses, he runs into a wall around the place.  He begins to suspect that a Jonestown-like cult lives here.  No one is ever allowed to leave.
A cult goes beyond a closed world like an “intentional community”. 
The episode also shows is wife (Shananyn Sossaman) and tween son back in Seattle.
How promising is the idea of a “closed camp” scenario for a story?  Many horror films are based on the setup.  In fact, my own DADT screenplay is predicated on the protagonist being “abducted” and held as a medical “prisoner” on a space station.
The main site from Fox is here
Picture:  "Coeur d'Alene" by bs4173 - I (Bs4173 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia, link -  I was most recently in the area in July 1990. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"The Whispers": New ABC series uses the idea of an imaginary child's playmate as a vehicle for alien influence

The Whispers” is a new series on ABC created by Soo Hugh, with Steven Spielberg as an executive producer.  The premise seems to be that an alien influence could penetrate our society by exploiting our children, baiting them with a imaginary playmates. It’s based on the book “Zero Hour” by Ray Bradbury. The series seems to be set largely in the Maryland suburbs around both Washington and Baltimore. It airs Mondays at 10 PM EDT.
I remember having such a companion as a boy.  I called him “Back”.  The day would come when I would have to “give up Back.”

So far, I’ve watched only the Pilot, titled “X Marks the Spot” (which aired on June 1, 2015), which opens where a little girl convinced her mother to climb into their treehouse (which, by the way, most property insurance companies won’t cover the liability risk of), and stand over a particular area in the floorboards.  She falls to the rocks below and has grave head injuries.  The girl tells authorities that an imaginary playmate named “Drill” coached her.

Then an FBI Agent who works as a child specialist, Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe – are we supposed to remember Scully from “X-files”?) is called into the case, and learns of another case where a teenage boy set off a bomb that killed himself, and disfigured his mother, under this playmate’s direction.  Then there is another “odd” couple, DOD analyst Wes (Barry Sloane) and estranged wife Lena (Kristen Connolly), with daughter Minx (Kylie Rogers), who, under Drill’s influence, will start hacking DOD (which China does all the time).

The episode reaches a bit into coincidence, though, with how in handles the apparent disappearance and reported death of Claire’s husband Sean when his Air Force flight went missing in the Arctic some time back.  Another plane crashes in the Sahara, and a reappearing pilot John Doe, mentions Sean. Furthermore, a mysterious man, covered with tattoos, recovering in a hospital, seems to resemble Sean (would Claire have married an illustrated man), but speaks Arabic in his sleep.  He seems connected to the kids and to Drill.  What’s makes it more unbelievable is that Claire’s own son, a deaf-mute but budding Little League baseball player, seems to have contact with Drill, too.  Are all the hapless connections compelling, or half-baked.

The plane crash is interesting in another sense.  The pieces of the aircraft are encased in natural salt sculpture that can happen in the desert as a result of dry lightning strikes.  All of this reminds me a bit of NBC’s “”The Event”, which was a compelling series.  Aliens must be involved.  I will accept nothing less.

The official site is here

Despite the coincidences, this series is intriguing.  I may follow up.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

"What Would You Do?" on ABC acts out socially provocative situations in public

ABC aired an interesting “What Would You Do?” Friday night, with John Quinones.  The direct link is here but it requires sign-in with a Cable provider. In this series, actors set up disturbing situations to see if bystanders will intervene. Or they may test businesses with unusual challenges. 
In one segment, an African-American customer, female, with vitiligo (depigmentation) faced resistance in a beauty salon, as a worker was afraid to touch her, especially the colorless area of her arm.  This was certainly an interesting lesson in how we feel about certain aspects of body image.  The opposite would be an aversion to tattoos.
Then in another scene, in a restaurant, some older teens try to get a younger teen (an actor) to do drugs (Tylenol) to “fit in”. An bystander does note that the substance could do permanent liver and kidney damage if consumed in bulk as a stunt.
And in still another skit, two parents tell their son they are getting divorced, rather loudly, in front of others, in a New Jersey restaurant. 
The embedded video shows a foster care abuse situation from last week. 


Thursday, June 11, 2015

CNN leads off "The Seventies" by covering the transformation of TV, not really conveying the decade

CNN’s “The Seventies: One Nation Under Change”, with the same theme music as “The Sixties”, leads off with “A 70’s Television Revolution”, marked by court decisions in the middle of the decade that the Family Hour from 7 to 9 was unconstitutional.  It seemed like a less interesting way to introduce the series, given the news events of the decade.  The basic link is here

It saw the introduction of cable with HBO in 1972, when it was far from clear that people would pay for “air”.  I do recall that Manhattan Cable existed by the early 70s and actually filmed a Ninth Street Center talk group in New York.

 Reality sports events, with Monday Night Football, started in 1970.  Toward the end of the decade big series and novels for television like “Roots” became more common. 
I had only a black and white TV in my first apartment in New Jersey in 1970.  I would have color by 1972, after returning to New Jersey.   I would work for NBC as a computer programmer from 1974 to 1977, and I recall that it had “Showcost” and “Aries” systems.  

Monday, June 08, 2015

"Becoming Us" on ABC Family: A teenage boy becomes a man while his father becomes a woman

Becoming Us” started tonight on ABC Family, with a Pilot, “Welcome to My World”.  The hour-long episodes let a 16-year-old teenager, Ben, relate his experiences growing up and becoming a man while his dad transitions into becoming a woman. He does have a girl friend.
His “dad” says that her relationship with Ben will be more valid once she transitions completely.  There was a divorce.  It’s not clear whether her “dad” would be heterosexual or lesbian after becoming a woman. 
Her former wife says that she started to develop breasts and male other changes (epilation) before telling her wife that she would transition to female. 
Ben lives in a suburb of Chicago, likes the Cubs.  The docudrama shows some shots of Lake Michigan.
The official site is here. 


Sunday, June 07, 2015

Dateline: "My Child Would Never Do That": test whether kids resist lures by actors posing as possible predators

NBC Dateline on Sunday night, in an episode “My Child Would Never Do That”, staged several experiments with a 20-something white male actor, setting up lures to see if kids remember not to go with strangers.
One middle school boy “helped load” a truck, and was “kidnapped” when the actor closed the truck. He was driven to the production team and parents two blocks away (I think in NYC).  But a middle-school aged girl turned him down.
Later, two middle-school aged boys did turn down an ice cream truck where they had to go inside.  But a teenage boy wasn’t able to avoid the lure of a video game arcade.
Lynn Keller has a writeup at NBC on the episode here


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Dateline: "Dangerous Liaisons" explores teacher behavior, presenting a female tutor with a male student, and a disturbing twist

NBC Dateline aired an unusual crime story “Dangerous Liaisons” (II)  tonight (Thursday). 
The case involved a tutor, Abigail Simon, at Catholic Center High School in Grand Rapids, MI, accused of an inappropriate relationship with a 15 year old male student. This is not part of the priest scandal because this time the perpetrator is an adult female, which seems to happen more often than one would expect. 
She claimed he was bigger and stronger (an athlete) for his age than usual and she was the victim.
She turned down a plea deal, which would have put her on a sex offender list but allowed her out of prison in a few months, and as tried and convicted on four counts.  A typical news story is here. She was sentenced to 8 to 25 years in prison, the mid-range of possibilities. 

The direct link is here.  The given embed code points to another show by mistake.
I’ve never been to Grand Rapids – I have been to Lansing, and through most of the state. But, curiously, Grand Rapids appeared in a dream about 15 years ago and I used it as a location in one of my sci-fi screenplays, “Prescience” (as well as “Baltimore Is Missing” for Project Greenlight in 2004).

And another of my scripts, “The Sub”, which created controversy when I worked as a substitute teacher in 2005, has a male sub drawn into some level of intimacy with a precocious male student. But the defense in this case maintains that the minor was unusually forceful and charismatic.  However, if so, why did he have low grades and need tutoring?
One of the defendant’s questions when first approached by police was, “What is your definition of a sexual encounter?”

The defendant had lived in a sparkling high rise in Grand Rapids.

She was tearful and remorseful at sentencing, and everyone regretted putting the boy (not named and face not shown) through the trial.

A 2009 episode of Dateline had used the title "Dangerous Liaisons" in a story about the girlfriend of a football player. 

Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Dekh of downtown Grand Rapids, under Creative Commons 3.0 share alike license. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

Anthony Bourdain's home state: "New Jersey Is Still Awesome"

Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” focused on his own home state of New Jersey, Sunday May 31. He says "New Jersey Is Still Awesome".  I remember that phrase from a job interview at Univac in 1972. 
The film focuses on the shore areas, and did not mention the northern part (where I lived in the 70s for a time) which has hills and ridges.
Bourdain visited Atlantic City, where the casino boom (partly stimulated by Donald Trump) has gone bust. Another $2 billion casino closed after two years.  He compared Atlantic City to Asbury Park, which has tried to recover the “natural way”.  He really didn’t get into the recovery from Hurricane Sandy much (areas that I visited in March 2013).  
But he did spent a lot of time in Camden, one of the poorest communities in the US.  But a half-century ago it had manufacturing jobs, like RCA Records.  RCA used to have a presence in Cherry Hill (when I started working there in 1970, although I worked at the David Sarnoff labs in Princeton).
Of course, Bordain focused on “the food”.  Like some people I know.  (Both Timo Andres and Timo Descamps love to post food pictures on Instagram.  Bourdain should meet them both.) There are food quasi-selfie in New Jersey locals from the show here  and here .  There's a taffy machine with interlocking swirls that suggests a math exercise (parametric equations from pre-calculus class). 
Bourdain also covered the legend of the “Jersey Devil” in the Pine Barrens of the flat, southern part of the state (where the ocean-tempered climate is usually quite mild, like much of the South, although Bourdain did show scenes in snow), a relatively unpopulated area where people are “left alone”.  That legend was the subject of the 1998 horror-docudrama “The Last Broadcast” (Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler), which is quite effective (and uses the idea of “fact or fiction”?)  I actually saw that film at the University of Minnesota Bell Auditorium in a Twin Cities film festival.  Will Bourdain visit Minnesota?