Friday, February 27, 2015

Meredith Vieira interviews former Everwood cast member Scott Wolf


Today (Friday, February 27, 2015), Meredith Vieira interviewed actor Scott Wolf, who had played Dr. Hartmann in the series “Everwood”, mentioned here just yesterday.
  
They talked about body parts (with some language normally above PG-13), and then did a “Dimple Dash”.  But the main focus of discussion was charging parents with criminal neglect for letting their kids walk alone, even in “safe” neighborhoods.  Meredith said she would have been arrested herself according to current trends. 
  
I walked to school alone starting in second grade, I think, about a quarter mile each way.  That was normal in those days. 

Studio audiences in these shows look small.  It would be fun to go to one. 
       
The link for the episode is here

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gregory Smith (from "Everwood" and "Rookie Blue") directs an episode of the comics-based "Arrow" for Greg Berlanti


Greg Berlanti (Everwood), Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg created a series, “Arrow”, starting in 2012, based on a DC Comics series.  The premise is that a billionaire (rather like “50 Shades”) is lost at sea, but returns to wreak vengeance as a vigilante in a hoodie, with a bow and arrow.  The hero, Oliver Queen (any relation to that character in  Smallville?) is played by Canadian Stephen Amell.
   
Berlanti had created “Everwood”, one of my favorite series from a decade ago, and the “kid” who played the prodigy pianist Ephram, Gregory Smith, directed last night’s episode, called “Nanda Parbat”. 
   
I had met Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt (“Bright” in Everwood) at a shopping mall party for the show at the King of Prussia Mall, near Philadelphia, in August 2005.  Gregory Smith stars in and has directed episodes of “Rookie Blue”. 
   
In the episode (filmed in Vancouver) starts with the abduction of a character Malcom Merlyn, and his taking to Nanda, which looks a bit like a Japanese prison building from WWII.  Ray “The Atom” (Brandon Routh) wants to finish his Atomic suit to save Merlyn (and eventually does), but Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) fears he will face the same fate as Oliver (which doesn’t seem so bad now).  Ray seems to have prepped himself for an artificial surface.  
   
The direction is fairly straightforward, with the pace increasing toward the use of the suit at the end.  There is a scene in the docks and warehouses where it seems that the colors are neutralized and darkened a bit artificially.
   
    

The official site for the show on CWTV is here.  CWTV used to be “TheWB”.  The cable network tends to run a lot of fantasy shows, some of which seem weaker than the hits like “Smallville” and “Everwood” of a decade ago.  The episodes are normally available next day online, and yes, you have to watch the commercials, which have a tendency to hang sometimes until you click on something in the commercial, an annoyance.  
  
Picture: Model of a "boot camp" on a space station in my own screenplay based on the "Do Ask Do Tell: books, set up in a train set. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Modern Family" plays an episode through Apple devices; Reid Ewing returns as Dylan, in a menial job


Tonight’s “Modern Family” episode, “Connection Lost”, may have looked like a demonstration near the Genius Bar in an Apple store.  (Right next to recent images on screens in these stores, alternating a watercolor portrait of teen scientist Jack Andraka, with the bleakest part of the ice planet in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” – and now “Modern” is probably going to get added to the mix.)
  
Various characters spoke in images framed by iPhoto (although these moved like they would in iMovie).  Most of the time, they were in some sort of setting that was visually interesting, but horizontally cropped, to be narrower than tall.  The effect was similar to that of Xavier Dolan’s Cinematography in “Mommy” (Movies blog. Feb. 5). 
  
I even went over to my new MacBook Pro under Yosemite after the show and tried to do something like this in iPhoto, and it froze.  That’s another story;  I didn’t do it right.
  
Reid Ewing, as the Moonlight Sonata songwriter Dylan Marshall, appeared (after a couple years hiatus – I’m not sure how long), swinging banner signs before a gold shop (they call it "sign spinning").  If you don’t keep moving the sign, you get fired.  I see people do this near apartment complexes leasing to new tenants.  I couldn’t hold a job like this down.

I don’t know if Reid will return permanently.  But in some of his roles (the social media miniseries “The Power Inside”, Sept. 13, 2013, for example) he can indeed seem overpowering and assertive. We'd love to see his own short films ("It's free") get back into circulation online.  In recent months he has been active in animal adoption causes (as with the "Best Friends" in Utah, here).  How does an actor who would presumably have to travel a lot for acting jobs keep the pets in his life?
  
  
ABC’s link is here
   
Mitch and Cam appeared twice, I think.  Maybe Jesse Tyler Ferguson can give a bow-tying lesson.  Anderson Cooper needed one, remember.
The commercial interruptions really disrupt this show.


Update: Feb. 27

Jack Andraka mentions an appearance on Modern Family, as he gives an interview on American ED TV at SXSW in Austin, TX in March 2014, here. I' m not able to tell easily which episode; if someone knows, please comment.


Update:  March 11

Tonight, Cam coaches a high school football team to a come-from-behind 34-31 victory.  I didn't know that Cam does football. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dateline reports unusual compulsive killing in Washington state by middle-aged man seeking "proxy revenge" in "A Gathering Storm"


NBC Dateline’s “Saturday Night Mystery” called “A Gathering Storm” presented a particularly disturbing crime, committed by a middle-aged man (James Huden) who had told his girl friend (Peggy Sue Thomas) in a Las Vegas hotel room, after participating in a beauty pageant, that he wanted to find out “what it feels like to kill somebody”.  Two or three years later, she was working in a beauty salon in Washington state owned by Brenna Douglas, who told her that her (Brenna’s) husband Russell  had been abusive.  Huden’s compulsion got triggered (by the secondary idea of avenging someone else’s domestic abuse by proxy), and he set up a trap to lure Russell to a remote spot on Whidbey Island, and executed him with a single bullet between the eyes.  The men had never met before.  The Dateline link for the full video is here and watching it may require logon to a cable provider.
   
I recall a crime somewhat like this in 1991 in Washington DC (a drive-by between two autos in motion on a public street), where that’s what the perpetrator said.  I can recall a conversation about it in a car among friends returning from a day hike, saying that sort of thing is the reason we need a death penalty.
     
Later, Huden would say he realized he had “made a mistake”, irreversible indeed in our own space-time continuum.   But he would spend some time on the Florida west coast before police would catch up with him, 4000 miles away (a diagonal across the continental US).
     
A True Crime blog report on the case is here
     
Huden would get 80 years for the crime, but you wonder why he didn’t get life without parole.
Peggy Sue Thomas, as some see as a major culprit, would get four years, as reported in this local newspaper.  
      
Again, some of the Dateline documentaries are more intriguing than typical Hollywood crime films.  
    
Picture: Hurricane damage in Punta Gorda, FL, November 2004, personal trip.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscars in 2015: Quite grand, and sometimes silly with Neil Patrick Harris


The 87th Academy Awards, the Oscars, is about to conclude, running longer than usual. 
Lady Gaga sang some adaptations from “The Sound of Music”, not as effective as the original film, before Julie Andrews presented the nominees for best music score.

But the high point of the evening seems to be the performance of “Glory” from Selma, with a replication of the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, Alabama on the stage.
  
 Neil Patrick Harris is the host (presenters here ) and he opened by singing “Moving Pictures”.
  
  
Later, Harris went in skivvies, showing off his smooth body, as if inspired by Reid Ewing’s “Imagine Me Naked” video from “Modern Family” a few years back.  But Harris wasn’t quite up to the challenge. Leave your bod for imagination. Later, Harris made a show of showing his own "predictions". 
  
The "Je ne regrette rien" from "Inception" has been played twice in a commercial. 
  
Best director: Allejandro Gonzalez Inniratu for “Birdman”.

Best actor:  Eddie Redmayne (as Stephen Hawking): "The Theory of Everything."  I would like to have seen Miles Teller ("Whiplash") and Ellar Coltrane ("Boyhood") nominated.

Best actress:  Julianne Moore for "Still Alice".

Best picture: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" (Nov. 5, 2014). I would have picked "Boyhood" or "Selma". 

Graham Moore, who wrote the adapted screenplay for "The Imitation Game" gave an impassioned acceptance and pitch for those who are "different".
   
Stay tuned.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will, Sonny and Paul make an equilateral gay love triangle on "Days of our Lives"; actor Freddie Smith's legal troubles after auto accident might affect storyline


Will, Sony, and ex-baseball pitching star Paul have a real love triangle on “Days of our Lives”.
   
The writers have conjured every possible coincidence to make it go as wrong as possible.  First, Sonny blows their money on his bar, and Victor has to protect his nephew Sonny from the underworld.  Lesson: don’t have joint accounts.  Well, you aren’t married then, are you?  Yes, you could still be parents.  You have a daughter to raise.  Go on. 

Will works hard on the story about the outing of a major league baseball player, whose career ends because of a shoulder injury.  But Paul practically makes Will sleep with him for the story, and Will needs the income.
  
Paul had been Sonny’s boyfriend in the past, and Will doesn’t know that.  A bellboy comes to Sonny’s bar and tells Sonny that he saw Will with Paul.  Sonny rushes out, and is attacked in a revenge against Victor.
  
Paul saves Sonny’s life by giving extra pints of O- blood (even with the ban against blood from MSM).  But nobody knows the donor is Paul.  The Paul visits Sonny and pleads to restart the relationship, making Sonny mad.  Stupid.  I’m not in a position in life to be jealous of anyone.
  
Then Will comes back, with their ring recovered by police and put on Sonny’s hand.  Will tries to pretend he didn’t do anything.  I’ve never heard anyone sound more chilling in saying “You” as Sonny.
  
The love triangle has two “smooth” men and one hairier, until he gets waxed, which seems to happen before every intimate episode. 

With gay marriage on deck for SCOTUS, you want to see the writers keep Will and Sonny married right how,  Like it or not, the set an example.  Major League Baseball insists it will protect players from sexual orientation discrimination.  Yet Findlaw has questions, here. 

In the mean time, “JJ” (Casey Modd) is perhaps becoming the most likable young character in the show, despite playing around with his enemy Eve.  Yes, he’s sudden discovered his chest hair.


Update: March 8

Sonny did not return home after discharge from the hospital, and went to Phoenix.  It seems as though he is out of the series for a while.

The actor may have taken a hiatus due to legal troubles after an auto accident, here. He is under "community control" for two years in Ohio, whatever that means.  His jail time is suspended pending completion of DUI school.   So this breakdown in the gay marriage may have been constructed to provide a hiatus, rather than have to bring another actor.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Bitcoin" becomes a rather riveting, if funny, exploration by Morgan Spurlock on his "Inside Man" series for CNN


On Thursday, February 19, 2015 CNN aired one of Morgan Spurlock’s most interesting “Inside Man” episodes, “Bitcoin”, or “Can You Live off Bitcoin”?  The main link is here
  
Bitcoin is supposed to be the digital equivalent of cash.  The idea is to trade the currency anonymously.  It was supposedly invented in 2008 (or before) by  Satoshi Nakomoto which may be a group of people and not just one individual. 
  
Andreas Antonopoulos, author of “Mastering Bitcoin” on O’Reilly, is shown speaking at a bitcoin auction in New York , explaining how people in Argentina and other countries went to bitcoin because governments confiscated their bank accounts.  Bitcoin doesn’t have the vulnerabilities of credit and debit cards to hacking and fraud.
  
But later in the broadcast Spurlock reports that a bitcoin facility in Japan simply disappeared, and a few hundred million bitcoins just vanished.  There is no recourse; the holders are out of luck.  Could there exist something like deposit insurance?  That would require regulation and the intervention of sovereign states. 

Spurlock  explained how Bitcoin price fluctuates.  It was $664 at the time of filming.  It seems to be just $245 today (link ). So it appears very volatile. 
  
Spurlock walked around his neighborhood in Brooklyn, seeing what places would take bitcoin.  The first place he tried was a pizza shop, and it did indeed.  Payment was a simple smartphone transaction (with a virtual “bitcoin wallet”), assuming both phones had the right apps and credentials. He was tasking himself to live only on bitcoin for a week. 
  
He even booked a flight from NYC to Rochester through Expedia, which seems to take Bitcoin, to visit a Bitcoin “mine”.  He worked assembling circuit boards for the processor.  Then he showed how bitcoins are created by solving increasingly difficult math problems.  There are about 13 million in circulation, source) and there is supposed to be a limit to the “bitcoin supply” of 21 million.  So the math problems get harder all the time.  Spurlock also explained the “Blockchain”  The largest Bitcoin mine in the world is in Iceland, I believe. 
  
  
Later Spurlock ran into more conventional large businesses that offer normal consumer financing, and they had no idea what “bitcoin” was. 
  
Spurlock also reported on the “Silk Road” and how people connect to it anonymously by TOR.  In fact, USA Today now reports on a federal auction of founder Ross Ulbricht’s bitcoins by US marshalls here.  All kinds of illegal things were trade on “Silk Road”, and these besides drugs, would include items like fake driver’s licenses or ID cards, sometimes used by teenagers to get into bars illegally (especially when there is a 21 minimum age).  Of course, there were other ways people procured these items before Bitcoin (and that’s an important issue on my screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted” in one of the layered backstories, something I need to clarify soon as a result of seeing Morgan’s report). 
  
I don’t own any Bitcoin now.  Some people suggest that some of someone’s assets (maybe 1-2 percent, up to 10%) should be in bitcoin – from different mines, if possible.  There is a natural question: should I get a bitcoin wallet and take bitcoin for my books?  I’ll look into that (and report on my Books blog, after some more reading, maybe the O’Reilly book).  If you want to take them automatically, you would need an e-commerce company and account that offers it;  my own service providers don’t right now.

As for film aesthetics, I certainly would rather see Morgan Spurlock walking the gentrified areas of Bed-Stuy looking for financial deals than having his chest and intestines modified in a medical report.  

It's also possible to explore a "moneyless" community (or shared income), called an "intentional community" like Twin Oaks or Acorn in Virginia, where work hours are the currency.  Morgan Spurlock could try living in one of these for a week.
     
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of older Bitcoin mining hardware by “FML”, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.     In the second picture, one of those coins is actually a Philadelphia SEPTA subway token.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In "The Slap" macho-man Harry faces legal, and maybe Marxist, consequences


I have to admit that NBC’s “The Slap” is turning out to have a real hook.  Episode 2 seems to be “Harry”, rather than “Anouk” as listed in imdb, and the narrator focuses on Zachary Quinto’s character.
  
One must say that Quinto is spectacular in this role as the overbearing macho straight dad (Wikipedia describes the well known outing of the actor as gay). His body language and bearing rather remind one of Bradley Cooper (without the additional weight in “American Sniper”).
  
  
Harry meets with Hector (Skarsgaard) about how to handle the situation, now that police have questioned Hector first.  They try to go to Gary (Thomas Sadkowski) and Rosie’s working class home to “apologize”.  It doesn’t go well – but having an eight-year old Hugo suckling on Rosie (Melissa George) sets a certain tone.  So Harry really gets arrested this time but the judge seems lukewarm when setting bail.
  
Harry’s aggressive nature, inbred on old world Greek Culture, comes through constantly.  He tells his son Rocco that “being on a winning team isn’t the same as winning.”  But when Rocco starts to take his own shot in a basketball practice, a fight ensues and Rocco gets kicked off the team.
  
It’s also said that Hugo was actually swinging at Rocco when Harry slapped Hugo.  I don’t recall that. I remember the whiffle-ball strikeout.   But that builds the obvious defense that Harry is protecting his own son.
  
Harry complains that the “weak” are always behaving aggressively to expropriate from the “strong” – like him, rich from his luxury car dealerships.  But that sounds like the Fundamental Problem of Karma – the source of “class war” if you believe Marx, and indignation that leads to social instability.  Just check the Twitter feed of “Chess Quotes”. 


Update: March 2

Watched episode 3, "Anouk" (Uma Thurman) is pregnant by musician Jamie (Penn Badgley, from "Gossip Girl"), 13 years younger.  Jamie wants to be a dad and proposes marriage, and she turns him down.  She looks at the idea of abortion.  The drama seems to be moving off track, 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Local DC station WJLA opens cold case crime series, "The Killers Among Us"


WJLA TV in Washington DC is starting a cold-case crime-reporting series “The Killers Among Us” each weekday evening this week in the 11 PM newscast.   The link to the story summaries is here
   
The series reminds one of Dateline’s crime series on NBC, or of John Walsh’s “America’s Most Wanted”.  But the reports on the local television station will be much briefer.  
  
Monday night, Feb. 16, the series opened with the story of Myra Cason, a retired teacher in Anne Arundel County in a suburb of Baltimore (Glen Burnie) SE of the city. She had been to a doctor’s appointment and went missing (in January 2011). Some hours after she was expected home, her body was found in a car in a parking lot about three miles away. It is unclear if she played Good Samaritan to someone who turned on her, or was kidnapped as part of a robbery attempt near a shopping mall.
  
These cases really do sound like matters that John Walsh (on CNN now) should look at, or possibly NBC’s investigative reporting team at Dateline could look at them. Another resource would be ABCs own 20-20 series, which sometimes does crime stories, typically not as detailed as Dateline's or CNN's. 

The Baltimore Sun has a story on the Cason case here, identifying the parking lot, and Baltimore television station WBAL has this report  where police are quotes as saying the perpetrator might have been someone who knew her. 
  
Although overall crime rates are down, brazen crimes may have increased somewhat since about 2007 since home and retail small business, and particularly personal automobile security systems and cameras have improved, making petty crime less “successful”.  Also, media coverage of these incidents increases because of the Internet. 
  
WJLA did not list the deaths of Kanika Powell and Sean Green in 2008 as among its cases, but these are among the most disturbing, from Prince Georges County, MD, immediately east of Washington DC. It sounds conceivable that these cases could be related to Jason Thomas Scott, which NBC Datelines explored on Jan. 24, 2015.  It is also possible that they could be related to foreign enemies, a very disturbing idea.  WJLA could consider re-checking all the facts in these cases and adding them to the series, but it requires more detail.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

"The Celebrity Apprentice" finale on NBC: Same old Donald, but two very important charities, and some tour of Universal Orlando


On Monday, February 16, 2015, Presidents’ Day, NBC presented the Live Finale for The Celebrity Apprentice, held in New York City before a modest studio audience.
  
  
In general, “Celebrity Apprentice” has not been as interesting to me as the “real” Apprentice earlier (remember what happened to Troy McClain in 2004), because these aren’t people who “need” a job.
But tonight’s finale presented Geraldo Rivera against Leeza Gibbons, both instructed, with their teams, to produce a video advertising the Universal Orlando (That is, Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure, including the Harry Potter attractions like Diagon Alley). 
  
One criticism I had of both candidates: the videos were very brief, and didn’t show the “lay of the land” of the resorts, or the fact that there are two parts to it, and a train between them, with a miniature London and then Diagon.  I had visited the old resort in 1993.  I had intended to go in December, and there was a complication, so I intend to go in the Spring.  But I wanted to see more of the place tonight.

The judges were mainly interested in how well the commercial mixed with their own charities, and with whether the idea that Orlando is both a family and an individual resort came through.
The show presented how they did the video editing (I think in Final Cut Pro). That was interesting, as I have my first “1:1” with Apple on Final Cut on Tuesday.
  
Gibbons, however, raised three times as much money at the event as did Rivera, and Donald Trump announced her as the winner. He said that Gibbons was atypical for people he deals with in “The City” for her kindness.
  
Rivera’s tragedy is Life’s WORC (link).  Rivera was well known in the 1970s for his exposure of Willowbrook on Staten Island.  I had a good friend in New York in the Village from 1976 through 1978 who may have been there or had been in a similar place, and had been involved in litigation.  I sometimes played chess games (he was fairly strong as a player) in his West Village apartment, where his cats would groom me. He made an astrology chart for me, which may be around somewhere.  He said I have “Venus in Virgo” which leads to bizarre sexual attitudes.
  
Rivera (born six days before me) was viewed as attractive in the gay community in those days.
  
Rivera would later do major reporting on the early days of the AIDS epidemic. On a 20-20 broadcast in May 1983, he traced the early theories on AIDS from Africa and through Haiti.  He presented a particularly graphic case of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, Kenny Ramsauer.   I corresponded with him by mail in these pre-Internet days about the political climate in Dallas.

Gibbons runs Care Connection (link ) which particularly helps caregivers of family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. She said that she stresses not what the patient has lost but what she has left.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. photo of original Universal entrance, which I used in 1993, photo by Benutzo Priwo. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Deadliest Planets" from NatGeo, not quite up-to-date on the science


Space Vacationers put up the National Geographic documentary “Deadliest Planets”.  While It’s a little oversimplified, it offers some new material on to what you can see in planetarium movies (as on the Movies blog, Dec. 17 and Jan. 22). The link is here.
  
I had always though Mercury kept the same face to the Sun, tidally locked.  That’s not quite true, but a day is 56 earth days, and any one point has a temperature range of -350 F to 800 F. There is a very thin atmosphere even with oxygen.
  
The idea that Venus might have had water at one time is presented, but a catastrophe happened a couple billion years ago – global warming, abetted by volcanoes.  It’s possible that extremophiles could live in the atmosphere with sulfuric acid.
  
On Mars, the deadliest hazards are radiation, from the lack of a magnetic field, which could be overcome in shelter design, and the fine iron talcum powder from dust storms.
\  
The documentary actually looks at the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, and shows what the metallic hydrogen in the core of Jupiter could look like.  But it doesn’t mention the possibility of a solid core. It does explain the Red Spot, which is actually an anti-cyclone, that doesn’t die out because there is no solid surface to provide friction.\
  
It also shows Io, where the surface heaves all the time with the nausea of volcanic vomiting, which sends dust clouds of lava particles toward Jupiter.
  
It dismisses Uranus (see notes on a short film after review of “Jupiter Ascending” Jan. 30)  but moves on to Neptune.  But newer information suggests that both Uranus and Neptune have water-ammonia mantles, that is, are waterworlds (see books, Dec. 19).
   
There is a good question, as to how to measure the diameter of a planet.  Earth measurements don’t include the atmosphere, but gas giants do, because we don’t know how deep the atmospheres are.   
There is also very interesting video of what Triton, with its explosive geysers (and resulting dust trails) looks like.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t mention either Europa or Titan. 

See also "Alien Planet" May 4, 2012 here. 
  
Wikipedia picture of Triton, NASA p.d. photo (from Voyager 2).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Spurlock covers "Dating in the Digital Age" on Inside Man


Thursday night, Morgan Spurlock, CNN’s “Inside Man” explored “Dating in the Digital Age”, link here, right before Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. 

  
He visited the offices of a typical dating service website (it seemed to be located in NYC) with maybe 20 technicians in a warehouse-like or loft-like office (maybe Soho).  The programming technology behind dating websites requires a lot of quick skills. 
  
Then he covered the lost art of buying someone a drink in a bar.  That’s something I never do!
   
He even interviewed a young man who makes a living as a “dating consultant”, in the Big Apple. 

The overall impression is that it is the real world that matters the most, not how many Facebook friends you have.  

Then Morgan even tried playing the game of matchmaker in the gay scene. 
  
I’ve seen straight men explore the world of gay dating before,  like the rather breathtaking-looking Nev Schulman on his MTV Catfish series (Jan. 29, 2013).  Of course, for an older man, playing “matchmaker uncle” (helping two men each several decades younger find each other and marry) is the next best thing.  Jealousy doesn’t get it anymore.
  
The Washington Blade entered the Inside Man world accidentally with its “singles contest” to be held at Town Danceboutique in Washington Saturday night (in the middle of the cold wave), link here
   
As for Morgan, remember how his movie about Osama ends:  with sharing the intimacy of childbirth with his wife.
 
Update: Vox Media has a story on dating sites, by Megan Thielberg, here

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"The Slap": a kids' whiffleball game at an adult birthday party leads to a legal case


The Slap”, like so many movies and TV series, tries to film normal family life in New York City, and in this 8-part missive, Hector’s family appears to live in an ample brownstone in Brooklyn Heights.  There is a narrator logging his thoughts and fantasies, as in a novel by John Irving.  It’s not very public who created this. The Pilot aired tonight at 8 PM EST on NBC.
   
Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) has his 40th birthday party (where are the black balloons?) at the office of his architectural firm.  He looks older than that. His wife Aisha (Thandie Newton) is a doctor, and he is already paying too much attention to the babysitter.
  
There’s also a birthday party at his brownstone, and it’s a kind of heterosexual “boys in the band” with wives and children.  That’s the problem.  Some interesting younger stars appear as the older kids, like Penn Badgley (who let his chest hair grow after “Gossip Girl”) and Lucas Hedges, with his professional photography, looking like an angel.  (He’s still “Bob” from “Zero Theorem” and is still “nobody’s tool”).  Zachary Quinto plays Harry, Hector’s cousin, and here he is no Spock.  He’s the most macho dad at the party.
  
Trouble approaches, with little clues.  Another couple invites Hector and Aishaon a paid vacation to Greece.  That’s no gift if work keeps you home.  Thandie objects, in private.
  
After eating their September picnic, grownsups suggest a whiffleball game, involving the little kids.  Hector already has cloth bases.  This is like the backyard softball we played as kids in the 50s.   Does the average brownstone in Brooklyn have enough of a yard even for whiffleball?   There’s only one fair hit ball, a drive toward third base (we don’t see where it lands). A well-pitched whiffleball is hard to hit. (We even played the game one time when I worked as a substitute teacher on “Extended Day”. In fact, I recall we played it in a garden apartment complex near Princeton, NJ in 1970, and I pitched a “road” 3-2 win.)  A little kid strikes out.  He whines.  He screams that he deserves another turn. Some bedlam ensues.  It often does at kids’ contests.  The kid is not Harry’s son.  But Harry slaps him.
  
Everybody gets sent home, but it looks like legal consequences are coming, judging from the previews. 

Alex Abad-Santos has some details on the origins of the show (Australia) here on Vox. 
  
  
The official site is here

This one might hold the audience.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Northern Virginia English teacher, with Shakespeare award, on "Jeopardy" tonight


English teacher Colin O’Grady from West Potomac High School in eastern Fairfax County, VA, very near the Alexandria city line off Route 1, appeared on “Jeopardy,”  hosted by Alex Trebek, this evening, as explained in a local newspaper called the Patch, link here. He is competing in the Teachers’ Tournament.
  
O’Grady did not win this evening. (The answer to the final question was "Bartlett's Quotations", here, and no English teacher knew it!)  However, O’Grady had won the Words in Action award from the American Shakespeare Center. He says his teaching technique involves encouraging students to make up their own interpretations as they act the parts.

I would love to have subbed for him today if indeed I were still working as a substitute teacher, which I am not.  I can say I have moved into content development, which I have.
  
I worked as a substitute teacher from April 2004 until December 2005 and again for a few months in early 2007.  West Potomac High School, although more distant geographically for me, was one of my favorite destinations, most of all the AP and Honors Chemistry classes which I did often in the spring of 2005.  However, there was a perplexing incident involving my own self-published web content which led me to stop subbing at the end of 2005, at West Potomac in October, involving a number of issues and improbable coincidences.  I have written about this before, and explain it in detail on Wordpress here  particularly the posting on March 6, 2014, that gives all the “forensic” details.  The only way I am ever going to solve a mystery like this is to write a screenplay and make a movie about it, and in fact The West Potomac Incident is a backstory (two layers deep) in my screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted” which is still “private” but upon which I am now giving a lot of detailed focus before presentation.  Making it producible will take a lot more fastidious attention to detail in the script from me. The Incident is also discussed in Chapter 3 of my third “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (2014) on Amazon. 
  
Second picture:  A “classic” camp motorcycle movie from the 1960s, from American International, or course.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"The Forgotten Plague: Tuberculosis in America" on PBS "American Experience"


Tonight, PBS, as part of “The American Experience” series, aired “The Forgotten Plague: Tuberculosis in America”, basic link here
   
In the late 19th century, whole cities in the western US were first populated in large part by tuberculosis patients encourage to migrate for “fresh air”, especially Los Angeles (ironically, given the smog of decades later) and Albuquerque.


In the early 20th century, city health departments had autocratic powers, and would inspect homes for suspected patients, who eventually would be sent to new sanatariums, many of them in upstate New York.  Patients were often placed on mandatory bed rest even when better.

Antibiotic treatments were not developed until the 1940s, and the program described the experiments that led finally to treatments.

Antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis would increase as a result of HIV in the 1980s, but it did not usually get spread to HIV-negative people.
  
My own father showed evidence of early tuberculosis when his prostate cancer exploded in 1985, as he would die on New Year’s Day 1986 at age 82.  Mother had placed him in my old bedroom because of the TB.  That meant she could have been exposed.  During the last years of her eldercare, I wondered if this could come up if we ever did place her in assisted living or a nursing home.  One cannot go into assisted living with “active” TB even today.  There could be a theoretical risk of exposing caregivers or family at home, but this does not seem to happen very much at all.  Teachers also have to get TB tests, and when a case of TB is reported at a public school, normally everyone is tested (with the forearm scratch test).  But nurses tell me “TB is very hard to catch”.  But it was common in lower income families a century ago.  

Monday, February 09, 2015

CNN: "Blockbuster: The Story of American Sniper" discusses the film and the trial of Chris Kyle's killer


Chris Cuomo hosted and Alysin Camerota hosted the CNN special “Blockbuster: The Story of American Sniper” Monday evening at 9 PM, link here.

But actual veterans say that the movie is “crap” and filled with things that would never happen.
The film created an outrage when shown in Baghdad, to the point that the film was pulled.
  
Jeff Kyle, the brother of Chris Kyle, appeared on the special.  The brother stressed that the public tends not to understand that soldiers don't come back from war the same people they were before.  What about Vietrnam-era draftees? 
  
  
The sister of the man (Eddie Ray Routh) who killed Chris on a Texas gun range in 2007 also appeared. A jury is now being empaneled in Stephenville. Texas, about 30 miles SW of Fort Worth. The act seems to have been impulsive or compulsive, as he seemed eager to confess immediately. 
  
The documentary covered Routh’s PSTD and the lax medical treatment offered him by the VA. 
  
My own review of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” appears on the Movies blog Jan. 16, 2015.

Don Lemon continued the discussion on “CNN Tonight” and presented the traveler’s manual in print “Hijrah” which actually is prepared for Americans traveling to Syria (illegally) to fight.  And this is not tongue-in-cheek.  

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Brian Williams takes leave of absence as NBC Nightly News anchor; major questions about news journalism (broadcast and web) circulate at different levels; later: NBC suspends Williams without pay


The television news world rocks right now with the news of possible fabrication or at least exaggeration in the news reporting of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.  Mr. Williams apparently had maintained he was in a helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003, when he was in a trailing chopper.  There are questions about his reporting of involvement with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
  
Mr. Williams has voluntarily stepped down temporarily from his position as anchor, and Lester Holt (Dateline) will take over Feb. 9.  Mr. Williams’s statement indicated his absence would last a few days, maybe a week.  Some observers indicate that he could be compelled to resign as NBC investigates.
  
Some veterans checked Mr. Williams’s statement and brought it to light.

  
Emily Steel has coverage in the New York Times here
    
NBCNews, which has not made the story as conspicuous as other news channels, has a statement on its own site here.
   
Most big time “real” journalists have “paid their dues” with conflict reporting, which is inherently hazardous, especially now.  Anderson Cooper spent several years reporting from developing countries as a young man.  But there is something about stepping on the turf of servicemembers who make real sacrifices and take real risks.  It tracks back eventually to the new debate on the “free rider” moral problem (not “easy rider”).
   


There is an inverse problem that comes up indirectly in this discussion, “amateur journalism”, which supplements establishment journalism with much more personalized coverage of some issues (as with me and “don’t ask don’t tell”).  But it might provide a novel issue of attracting hostility, a process that could become another big issue suddenly. 
    
I was employed by NBC as a computer programmer in the mainframe area from 1974-1977 when I was living in Manhattan myself and worked in the RCA Building Center on the 49th Street side, facing South, on the 14th Floor. 

Two of the pictures here are from the NBC Washington (NBC4) health fair on January 10.

Update: Feb. 9 

Stars and Stripes has published Brian Williams's Feb. 4 interview here.



Update: Feb. 10

NBC has suspended Brian Williams for six months without pay, after a meeting in an NBC Executive's personal Manhattan apartment (and that's bizarre), New York Times story here. The announcement came out today right after NBC Nightly News aired.

There is a general comment that people are distrustful of the major networks, and I remember a "trick" on New Year's Night, 1976, who talked about "the abuse of the media".

NBC has its own statement here.

Remember the 2003 movie "Shattered Glass" and the book "The Fabulist", the unfortunate story of New Republic writer Stephen Glass. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

ABC 20-20 "Family Secrets" tells the story of Matthew Scheidt, who followed the "Catch Me If You Can" script in real life


ABC “20-20” related, in an episode called “Family Secrets”, the story of Matthew Scheidt, who went to prison for impersonating a physician’s assistant and then a police officer in Miami, in a spree that resembles the movie “Catch Me If You Can” with Leonardo Di Caprio.  ABC News has a detailed story here.

Scheidt says he pulled off the ruse out of poor self-concept based on his family background.  This game him a chance to “be somebody”.  He says he learned a lot in his one year in prison. 

  
It’s not clear that any patients were really in jeopardy. 
  

You can watch the full episode here but have to be signed on to your cable provider’s website account.  

Friday, February 06, 2015

Morgan becomes a Zookeeper on "Inside Man"


Morgan Spurlock’s “Inside Man” last night had Morgan working as an attendant in the Detroit Zoo, “doing what you’re told.”  Jason Kurtz has the notes here

Morgan fed the gorillas fruit and a special cracker through a grating, and then tending to the penguins, where it was helpful to bring your own eggs.   He also fed the gizzly bears. An interesting segment was the echocardiogram given to a gorilla.  These primates have heart disease in captivity, even though fed a proper diet.  But they’re not fed exactly the same plants they could find in Africa.  Maybe romaine lettuce isn’t that good for them.
  
The Detroit Zoo is booming even though the city is bankrupt.  The elephants were going to be moved, however. 
  
  
Later Morgan visited a sanctuary in Oklahoma, where a man bred lions and tigers together to make hybrid “ligers”.  A female employee had lost an arm to one.
  
He also visited a sanctuary in the desert east of Los Angeles.

In 1982, I spent a weekend with the Sierra Club at a wild animal preserve near Glen Rose, TX. 
Pictures: Smithsonian Zoo in Washington DC;  Detroit downtown, 2012 (mine). 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

NBC's "Allegiance": interesting look at the life of a young CIA analyst, but I don't believe the stuff about his parents being former KGB


The NBC series “Allegiance” started tonight with a Pilot.  It will be compared to “The Americans”, but this one is set in present day, so any KGB activity in the US seems more about thuggery and promoting Putin’s statist capitalism, where teenage hackers contribute to the gross “national” product.
  
Gavin Stenhouse plays Alex O’Connor, a brilliant young CIA analyst, multi-lingual, just hired out of grad school.  If I follow right, his parents were at one time part of a KGB sleeper cell.  It’s pretty hard to believe that the son wouldn’t know or that his background investigation wouldn’t find it. 
  
But the plot is predicated on the idea that Putin wants to do something super bad to the US power grid, starting with steam-operated plants.  I don’t see yet how this hooks up with EMP attacks or cyberwar; maybe it’s just a pilot.  The Ruskies (we can’t call them Soviets now) need to hire the parents out of hiding.  So the compromise is that the parents will spy on the son. It actually starts, with swapping SIM cards and planting car bugs.
  
It’s also a little silly to have all this in New York City.  It would make more sense to carry out a plot like this in Silicon Valley.
  
Although Alex is an analyst, he acts like a real spy, meeting with informants in subway hideaways right out of “The Bone Collector”.  He is told to use a pseudonym when working, Bill Adams, even with his peers. 
  
The CIA activity in my own novel is, by comparison, rather low key as to the skullduggery.  There is little violence, and most of the secrets are hidden in plain sight.  But that’s what aliens would do.  Remember, Clark Kent had to be discreet about how he uses his powers.

There is a reference to what they learned from Edward Snowden.  They didn't already know?
  
  
USA Today has a comparison (to “Americans”) here
  
NBC’s site (“Flag or family?”) is here

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Meredith Vieira, Dr. Phil cover "sugar daddies" and "sugar babies": young women expect older men to step up and put them through college as "good guys"


Today, in a little episode called “Sugar Babies” (link), Meredith Vieira examined the practice of young women trying to pay for college by offering companionship to older men.  Is this prostitution?  No, it’s supposed to be strictly platonic, and the company monitors clients for TOS violations (site ). 
  
The idea that an older man will pay a gal’s way though school because he is a “good guy” sounds rather asinine.  What does that say about men who won’t?
  
  

But Dr. Phil had covered the same topic in November 2014.  Lisa Ling had covered it in "This Is Life", Sept. 28, 2014. 

Monday, February 02, 2015

SuperBowl domestic violence ad really did teach something; Katy Perry was great at halftime


Okay, you can watch the NFL Superbowl Halftime show here.
  
  
I for one love Katy Perry’s “Roar” (often played on Sirius XM The Blend).  I thought that the terminator lion looked like something out of sci-fi, or maybe even like the Golden Calf from Arnold Schoenberg’s opera “Moses and Aaron”.   Later, of course, came “I kissed a girl”, on the lips, heterosexually yours.
  
I also thought that the tone of the show recalled the Beijing 2008 Olympics and had a touch of Sochi in the d├ęcor.
  
The end of the game was super, and not fixed.  The deflected completed pass, and the goal line interception, and the food fight afterword seemed a bit scripted, though.
   

And the commercial on domestic violence was instructive.  How many people know  that women often pretend to be doing something like ordering pizza to fool an abusive partner (usually husband) in the room?