Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bill Weir visits the Dead Sea


Bill Weir’s “Wonder List” covered The Dead Sea, the lowest body of water in the world, at 1407 feet below sea level, and likely to disappear eventually, link here
  
The program started with a visit to a bunker used during the Six Day War of 1967, now filled with bats.
  
“The Promised Land is at a crossroads, caught in a water crisis.”
  
  
A large filtering company operates at one end, and a small strip is in Palestinian territory.
  
The site of Sodom and Gomorrah is on the lake.  A pinnacle called Mt. Sodom, still all below sea level, with “Lot’s Wife” exists, made of halite.
  
Weir used the term “old stories” as a characterization of Israel-Palestine conflict. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of “Mt. Sodom”, p.d. (takenby Wilson) 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Roman empress Helena's find of "The True Cross" on "Finding Jesus" on CNN


Sunday night, CNN aired another episode of “Finding Jesus”, called “The True Cross”, about the hunt for remains of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.  The main link for the episode is here
  
Much of the episode concerned the effort of Roman empress Helena, in the 4th Century AD, to journey from Rome to Jerusalem and locate the remains of the cross.  She is called the world’s first archeologist.  Her son, Constantine, would become Rome’s first Christian emperor, despite his violence.  He would be baptized at the end of his life as an old man.

.

The Catholic Herald tells the story of Helena here.   Here’s another story on the relics of the crucifixion.

Oxford will do carbon dating on a relic from the cross, here
  
Over the centuries, rulers and politicians would trade pieces of holy relics as was of establishing “trust” with others. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SNL: No, Indiana doesn't want me


SNL took a pot shot last night at Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRS).  You’ll be able to tell which businesses took the governor up on the deal by their “going out of business” signs.


What followed was an inventory of emails on Hillary Clinton’s server, and then an interview with a “Russian” about the proposed highway from Moscow all the way to Sarah Palin’s Alaska, despite the economic sanctions.

Yes, if someone I know gets to host SNL, I’ll have to go, and figure out how to get the tickets in time.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"The Charleston Affair" on NBC Dateline: Police learn of a hit in progress from a routine stop


NBC Dateline on Friday night reran “The Charleston Affair”, a bizarre mystery that started when a police officer pulled over a suspicious vehicle in Charleston, SC, and after arresting the man for an illegal weapon, listed to the man’s story about his connection to hit on a wealthy woman, Nancy Cannon, scheduled for divorce. The title of the episode conjures memories of Rhett Butler. 
  
  
Her husband, Chris Latham, an executive with Bank of America, had resisted the alimony part of the divorce
  
The Charleston Post Courier has the story here
  
Latham had engaged in an office romance with a “poor” woman from West Virginia and Ohio, who had worked as a stripper, and whose ex-husband had underworld connections.
  
So the final trial, on them both, dealt with proving a conspiracy, using elaborate high-tech records from cell calls and web searches.  Police are getting better at monitoring Internet activity to detect and solve conspiracies, which walks the privacy line.  Scanning the Cloud could be next.
  
Nancy’s children were pulled out of school, even from a college in North Carolina, for their own protection.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Arthur Ravenel Bridge, by BBatsel, link here under Creative Commons 2.5 Generic License.  I rode the bridge with friends in 1990, a Citadel history professor and his wife, family friends.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"The Fugitive Millionaire" (John McAfee) on NBC Dateline


Tonight, NBC Dateline, with Keith Morrison reporting, told the story of “The Fugitive Millionaire”, John McAfee, founder of McAfee anti-virus software, which used to be the most important of these companies (along with Symantec Norton).  McAfee, as a younger man, was very determined to eliminate all computer viruses and worms himself.


McAfee, born in 1945, lost a lot of his fortune in the real estate bubble and moved to Belize, which is popular for retirees with low cost real estate and little business regulation, and is relatively stable compared to other Central American countries.  The documentary starts with a visit to his palatial estate “on the beach”, with its guard dogs and security.  He’s playing Gershwin on the piano.  It’s like a James Bond movie opening (“three blind mice”).

But McAfee started having trouble with local police in 2012, and his home was raided.  Neighbors complained about the dogs.  Eventually, a neighbor Gregory Viant Faull, was found shot execution style.  McAfee was regarded as a person of interest, and at one point sought political asylum in Guatemala.  Eventually he returned to the US and lived in several places, settling in Tennessee and starting a new security company in Alabama.

But it’s ironic the documentary appears right after the interesting Robert Durst.

It’s a bit of an ironic coincidence that a local church sends a very active and effective youth group to a summer mission in Belize (see Drama Blog, Nov. 4, 2012).  The social climate in the country seems to be interesting.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Great Blue Hole, by USGS (pd). 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"The Vaccine War" on PBS Frontline


On Tuesday, March 24, 2015 PBS aired its documentary “The Vaccine War”, which was apparently its second airing.  The main link is here and the entire film (53 minutes) is available now.
  
The film traced the history of vaccine resistance among parents.  One of the most important observations is that younger parents today did not experience seeing people get polio or diphtheria or the complications of measles.
  
  
Parents would say, “my child got several shots last month and suddenly went downhill and wound up in special education.”
  
Other parents would object to the giving of vaccines for what is normally an STD (hepatitis B or human papilloma). Another said that getting sick is part of life and that she thought it was better for her kids to get the diseases and overcome them. That leads to questions of states (like Oregon) that in the past have been lenient with non-medical exemptions to vaccinations.
  
But coincidence does not imply causality. Repeated studies (the best ones done in Denmark) show no connection between the use of multiple modern vaccines and the development of autism. Even the idea that the mercury compound used as a preservative (thimerosal) increases the risk of autism or other neurological disease was discredited. 
      
The main ethical problem comes from the concept of “herd immunity”.  A given parent could decide not to take the miniscule risk of vaccination if she knows that other parents did have their kids vaccinated. That becomes an ethical problem, although this is similar to other issues in the past with the military draft, maybe even the “chain-letter” transmission of AIDS among gay men that the right wing tried to propagate in the early 1980s.  
  
So the issue becomes a test of individualism, and as to whether “just taking care of one’s own family” is real individualism, or is ethically desired.
    
Dr. Anthony Fauci, from NIH, often appears, discussing the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in practice.
  
The documentary covered a bizarre case where a Washington Redskins cheerleader developed neurological disease after vaccination.
  
It also pointed out the danger to kids with compromised immunity due to chemotherapy if exposed to unvaccinated kids.

I had measles in 1950, just before my seventh birthday.  Could some of my problems keeping up physically been related to measles?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers", CNN Special Report


Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers”, one hour, started out by showing the ostracism some young adults faced after telling their families they no longer believed in God.  It seemed clear that in many families, the energy driving the marriage and the rearing of children seems to come from faith. A typical CNN link is here
  
   
On the other hand, rational adults don’t want to believe something just because it is scripture, and because they were told by others in family or peer group to believe it.  Yet some parents are quite insistent that there can be no argument with scripture.
  
In fact, the mathematics of cosmology and string theory may indeed predict that consciousness associated with free will persists, and that there must be an afterlife (although Stephen Hawking disagrees).  It’s quite remarkable that the universe progresses from strings or sub-atomic particles to conscious beings with free will who can reverse entropy.
  
CNN has aired a commercial by little Ronnie Reagan for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and little Ronnie says he has no fear of hell.  But some other networks have refused to air it.
  
The documentary features Dave Silverman (President, American Atheists) which aired commercials on CNN before and after but not during the show.  Richard Dawkins and Jerry DeWitt appeared.
The documentary featured a pastor who kept preaching even though he says he no longer believes, and his voice was disguised.
    
I can remember a communion chant at MCC, “I’m a believer, not a doubter.” There ought to be a movie titled "The Rapture of the Believers". 
       
And some people have proselytized to me.
   
The documentary didn't mention the term "agnostic" which was often used when I was growing up. 
     
The program also presented AtheistTV.  I think that the deepest dualities inn our ethical dilemmas – balancing the rights of the individual with stability for the group, and deeper fairness, are addressed in all major religions.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bill Weir looks at the decreasing population of tigers as he visits India on his Wonder List


Sunday night, Bill Weir added India to his Wonder List, posing some important questions, link here .
  
First, he asked if India could sustain its population growth (while richer countries have lower birth rates), and increase its standard of living. But then he moved quickly into the middle of the country, into an area with a tiger population, and covered the problem of poaching and declining population of wild tigers.
  
Much of the poaching serves foreign interests, especially Chinese.  But the local population often supports it, because of misperceptions about tiger attacks on humans. Wikipedia has a factual piece on the problem  There are appropriate ways to behave in an area where tigers live. Most of us feel more empathy for tigers (who are more like "us") than sharks. 
   
The documentary also covered the damage to the Taj Mahal done over centuries by air pollution.

Wikipedia attribution link for tiger photo (“Flehmen response”) by Sumeet Moghe, link here, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike license.    

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"James: The Secret Brother of Jesus" continues CNN's "Finding Jesus" and looks at a possible real forgery in an ossuary; also Jesus's original family values


CNN’s “Finding Jesus” series continued tonight with “James: Son of Joseph, The Secret Brother of Jesus”, link.

  
The primary research concerns an ossuary, or bone box, on display in Toronto in 2002, said to contain the remains of James.  But later the man who sold the box would be prosecuted in Israel for taking archeological items and then be acquitted for forgery.
  
The ossuary may be the closest evidence we have to the actual historical existence of Jesus.
A few novels have dealt with this matter, not only Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”, but also some of Irving Wallace, especially “The Plot”.
  
James may have been a younger brother if Mary had biological children by Joseph after Jesus, or he could be a more distant relative.  The show went into some apocryphal gospels, including “The Gospel of Thomas” and “The Gospel of the Hebrews”.  It presented a narrative where Jesus saves James life as a teen after a snake bite.
  
Jesus’s ministry would have created enormous tension within Jesus’s birth family.  Jesus actually denied the need to maintain tribal loyalty to his origins. 
  
Later James would come into conflict with Paul over Paul’s ministry to Gentiles, divorcing Christianity from Jewish origins.  The film covers James’s murder, and also restages the funeral of Joseph around 27 AD. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of interior of Cathedral of St. James, Jerusalem, author Claudius Prosser, under Creative Commons 2.0 Share-Alike 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dateline story "Deadly Twist" of a serial wife murderer follows scripts of some fiction indie mystery films


On Friday NBC Dateline aired “Deadly Twist”, the story of the murder of Rachel Winkler by her husband Todd Winkler in an airpark neighborhood (where people have private planes in their driveway) in the eastern outskirts of Sacramento, Ca, on the edge of the wine country.  Artist Don Hartfield, often seen teaching painting on television (I’ve seen this) will raise his grandchildren by her.
  
  
The story has a strange twist. In 1999, a previous wife of Todd would die in a bizarre camping fire “accident” in the north Georgia mountains.  The link to a typical story is here
  
Winkler, who would be sentenced to 26 years to life for second degree murder, seemed to have a propensity to stage deaths of spouses to collect money from insurance, and seemed prone to jealousy. Dateline did not spend a lot of detail time on the trial.
  
Cinematically, the report (directed by Keith Morrison) resembled “The Dark Place”, a somewhat similar mystery story in the Napa wine estate country (actually in Oregon) with gay characters, and “The House of Adam”, a Jorge Ameer film and another gay mystery with a lonely mountain road scene (in the Tahoe country) that resembles a shot in the Dateline report.
  
Heterosexuals and homosexuals can generate similar “Hitchcock” plots.  It’s rather interesting to see plots imagined by gay screenwriters actually happen in the real straight world.   

Dateline's crime reports, however, make for compelling viewing. The NBC staff really seeks out bizarre "real life" mysteries to match anything John Grisham could make up.  
  
Picture:  Wheeler Peak, Nevada, my trip, 2012 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Morgan Spurlock becomes a park ranger, shows skill with ropes in climbing out of a glacier crevasse on McKinley


Morgan Spurlock’s season finale of “Inside Man” showed Morgan working as a park ranger, mostly in Denali National Park, Alaska, containing Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America.
The film starts as he goes camping with his young son.  Soon he goes to work, addressing the fact that interest in National Parks among young people has diminished. 
The highlight of the broadcast occurs when Spurlock rescues himself from a glacier crevasse, using tricky rope work that he has been shown only once.  It’s like Army training.  I couldn’t do that.  

Spurlock also visited a rockslide site, and explained how permafrost is melting because of climate change.  He presented charts showing the loss of glacial mass since 1900, along with comparative photographs.  This was a bit like Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”.

The broadcast had started in Washington DC, and mentioned that the White House is part of the Parks system.  The budget for the Parks costs an individual $4 a year.  Most is supported by user fees.

I flew over Denali in a private plane in 1980.  I flew up to about 9000 feet along the slope of McKinley. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for glacier photo from Denali by Brian Schaller, Copy Left free art, Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Robert Durst saga continues on NBC Dateline: "Inside the Long Strange Trip"


On Thursday, March 19, 2015, NBC Dateline aired a news special, “Robert Durst: Inside the Long, Strange Trip”.   The documentary had the advantage (compared to HBO’s) of knowing about Durst’s arrest in New Orleans. 


The broadcast outlined Robert’s early life in NYC, the visits to Studio 54 (literally like in the 1998 movie “54”) and his wife’s desire to be independent of him and go to med school.  She disappeared.

Susan Berman’s death is said to have looked like a mob hit.  The judge (Susan Criss) in the Galveston case said that the state was “out-lawyered” and had been overconfident in the case.  But the public is shocked at the depravity of the alleged crimes. 

The FBI is looking at other cases of missing persons where Durst could be implicated.  He sometimes volunteered at shelters, and cross-dressed and hid his identity.  Apparently there is a case of a female disappeared from Eureka, CA in 1997.  His net worth was over $100 million. 
  
Generally, lawyers believe that Durst’s bathroom confession will turn about to be admissible.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst": did the conclusion of the film provoke the arrests?


HBO reran the entire six part series Tuesday, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Jinx”, by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling.  HBO’s main link is here.
  

There six chapters, mostly under an hour each: (1) “A Body in the Bay” (2) “Poor Little Rich Boy” (3) “The Gangster’s Daughter” (4) “State of Texas vs. Robert Durst” (5) “Family Values” and “6”The Second Interview”.
  
The series has attracted controversy because Robert Durst was arrested in a hotel in New Orleans, under warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department,  Saturday, one day before the airing of the last interview.  It’s also horrific that a man would have all the privileges of wealth and apparently turn out to have become a serial killer.  He seemed to be prepared to live on the run and sometimes went into cross-dressing and gender bending, but only for disguise. 
     
As the last episode ends, Durst, now 71, is talking to himself in a hotel room (is that in NYC?) and mutters “What the hell did I do? Killed them all of course.”  Then the film ends.
  
The history starts with the disappearance of his wife in 1982, and continues with the mysterious death of a friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles in 2000.  The last interview focuses on handwriting and misspelling similarities between two letters sent.  The idea is that he could have feared she knew something about the 1982 case.  When he moved to Galveston, a neighbor was murdered and dismembered, and he was acquitted in a trial in 2003, claiming self-defense.
  
The filmmakers take a “meta film” approach.  Garecki inserts himself into the film, interviewing Durst, and often talks about the documentary process as part of the film.
  
The film has opened a major debate on the responsibility of filmmakers, book authors and even bloggers when they discover crimes (or real terror threats) in the course of their work. 

There are major commentaries, such as on CNN, the New YorkTimes, and Esquire

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

CNN: "Spotlight: Charles and Camilla"


On March 13, CNN aired a half-hour documentary, “Spotlight: Charles and Camilla”, about the second marriage each for Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, main link here

  
The couple married in 2005.  CNN’s Max Foster interviewed Charles at the castle at Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which looks like a place in Middle Earth.
  
The couple recently toured the US and Camilla was shown visiting a children’s charity near Louisville, KY. 
  
Camilla does not like to be interviewed on her own.  Charles did give a tribute to his wife from his study during the interview. 
  
Charles is quite active in environmental causes and has made an environmental special for NBC before (called “Harmony”, Nov. 19, 2010). 
  
The documentary also recalled the tragic death of Charles’s first wife, Princess Diana, in 1997, which happened the weekend I moved to Minneapolis to start a new job! I remember hearing about it in an elevator. 
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Iona Abbey in Scotland, picture by John Naisbitt, under Creative Commons 2.0 Share-Alike license. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Ikaria: the Island where People Forget to Die", a "Blue Zone" on Bill Weir's "Wonder List" for CNN


Bill Weir’s “The Wonder List” on CNN continued Sunday night with “Ikaria: The Island where People Forget to Die”. The main link is here


Ikaria is a rocky island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece, part of the country.  It has little space for natural harbors, so the residents have less contact with the outside world that usual.
  
Weir introduced the place with the story of 67-year-old man who returned to his ancestral homeland from New York, with terminal lung cancer.  He wound up living 37 years longer.
  
The long lives in this “Blue Zone” are attributed to diet and to extremely connected social structures through extended families. 
  
People eat what they can pick, grow, or sometimes catch.  Mostly they eat vegan, but they pig out about once every two weeks.  The diet contains lots of honey and anti-oxidant plant oils; lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and especially beans.
  
People tend to have many children, and elderly relatives stay in family homes. But people keep working until 100;  the maximum age for a small business loan is 102.
  
So the place seems a bit like an “intentional community”.  People don’t pursue their own individual goals for innovation, requiring their own contact with the rest of the planet, like the rest of us do.  People accept extended social relations and intimacies within the family that many of us would reject, and insist on being free to reject.  People “take care of their own”, but the reach beyond “their own” is limited.
  
Weir also visited Loma Linda, CA blue zone, largely populated by Seventh Day Adventists, who have a lifestyle similar to Ikaria.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo by Stelios Kirousis, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Share-Alike. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

CNN and NatGeo have both tackled: "The Gospel of Judas"


CNN’s “Finding Jesus” continued Sunday night with “The Gospel of Judas”.
  
The series does re-enact the “Judas Kiss” (which ironically is also the title of one of the most important gay male dramas ever made, in 2011).  Both Jesus and Judas are shown as physically striking men, Judas with a very hairy chest.  The actual kiss, to identify Jesus, for 30 pieces of silver, is almost “gay”.  The physical metaphor then sets up the theological and moral debate, something the Bible belt can feast on.
  
The episode also looks at the 1978 finding of stone texts in Egypt, gradually assembled to be the “The Book of Judas”, or, in fact, “The Gospel of Judas”,  which as a National Geographic film on its own channel in 2006.  Was Judas doing what Jesus wanted him to do, to fulfill Jesus’s need to be crucified so he could rise?  Or was there some “evil”?
  
Did Judas enter “The Cloud” or was that really Jesus?  The Book also describes a dream where the other disciples are engaging in debauchery (which unfortunately mentions “unnatural relations”).   They are rather like the Israelites making the Golden Calf while Moses gets the Ten Commandments.  Not just Judas, but all the disciples become “fallen angels” (a concept in my own manuscript, “Angel’s Brother”, where there are exactly two).
  

The Gospel of Judas is seen as attacking the leadership of the new church in the decades following the Resurrection and Ascension.
 
The Gospel of Matthew is the only source of Judas Iscariot's hanging of himself.  
    
The CNN link is here


Thursday, March 12, 2015

"CSI: Cyber" offers Patricia Arquette as a cyber-cop; last night's episode was about "gore porn"


Wednesday night, CBS has started airing “CSI: Cyber”, a series in which Patricia Arquette (from “Boyhood” and some David Lynch films) stars as an FBI agent, Avery Ryan, tracking down cyber crimes.
  
Episode 2 of Season 1 for this series is titled “CMND Crash”.  In Richmond, a horrific roller coaster crash occurs, just as a young man is proposing marriage before the ride starts.  The process control computer for the roller coaster is completely off the Internet, but it turns out there are “dark web” forums in which process control cards are auctioned and ordered, to support a “gore porn” addiction. 
    
Avery tracks down the group, and determines that the “club” plans an event on the subway system in Boston.  The conclusion of the episode rather reminds one of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” from the 1970s.  Charley Koontz plays the super-geek at FBI quarters (rather reminding one of Jonah Hill).  Joe Reegan plays the would-be groom who turns out to be a disturbing and improbable villain, somewhat of the McVeigh mold.
  
There are a number of small companies in the US that make process control boards and that code the corresponding firmware, so this episode could seem disturbing to them. 
     
I wondered about the idea of making Boston the focus of a fictitious attack, given what happened at the Marathon in 2013, with the trial going on right now.
  
There was a disturbing thriller by James Goldstone “Rollercoster” back in 1977 from Universal, with Timothy Bottoms and George Segal, about an extortion plot.
  
  
The official site from CBS is here

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CNN: "Miles O'Brien: A Life Lost and Found": recovery from an arm amputation after an accident with random, rare medical complication


Tuesday night, CNN presented a special one-hour documentary, “Miles O’Brien: A Life Lost and Found”, which is pretty well summarized by this AP story here
  
  
Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosted the story of one of CNN’s own international journalists.  O’Brien, 55, had been reporting in southeast Asia and was in the Philippines in early February, 2014. CNN’s own link is here
   
On Tuesday, February 12, 2014 O’Brien had a freak accident where a video case fell and hit his forearm.  He thought he had just an ordinary bruise.  But in rare cases, the swelling from a large contusion can choke off blood flow to the rest of the limb because it is contained in connective tissue, called “compartment syndrome” (link). 
   
Had the arm been fractured, he would have been better off, because he would have sought medical attention immediately. It's unlikely that the outcome would have been different, when treatment was sought so late, even in the US. 
     
Instead, he waited until there was severe pain.  He went to shock because of blood poisoning from the tissue death below, and the arm was amputated during surgery.  He woke up, unable to believe what he had seen.  He spent nine days alone in a hotel before he would tell anyone.
  
The rest of the film shows the rehab, especially long bike rides for charity in Michigan. 
   
The extreme nature of the syndrome is remarkable.  We’ve all had deep bruises, that lead to bumps and little discoloration at first, and then a greenish color that spreads.  
    
I had an ulnar fracture in September 1970 after falling off a bicycle when striking a pothole in a New Jersey parking lot.  It was put in a cast and healed without incident.   

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"Scorpion", while silly in execution, has a valid premise


Last night, I sampled the CBS series “Scorpion”, developed by Nick Santora.  The premise is that a nerd genius Walter O’Brien (British actor Elyes Gabel) runs a company “Scorpion” to help legitimate democratic governments deal with exotic threats around the world, with contracts set up with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security (which it really does).  It’s easy to imagine what these could be, maybe like an EMP attack in “One Second After”.
  
The episode Wednesday night, directed by Guy Ferland, was titled “Once Bitten, Twice Die” (Season 1, Episode 18).  The team is present at a difficult negotiation in a former Soviet republic or satellite, unnamed but probably Belarus.  Vladimir Putin is the unnamed threat. The president of the country gets a poisonous snake bite.  The team has to figure out which species and build the right potion to stimulate antibodies to the venom to save the president’s life.  The team is holed up but escapes, and has to steal a Taco truck (something you don’t see good guys do often).  I don’t know if the medicine is real (maybe a “Jack Andraka Test” could identify the venom – a premise for a future episode).  The dialogue among the officials was contrived and silly.  Nevertheless, this sort of stuff goes on.  DHS (and other agencies) actually do send consultants to former Soviet republics to help set up defenses to infrastructure. 
  
  
The official site on CBS is here.  

Monday, March 09, 2015

"The Returned": Canadian remake of French "Les Revenants", offers a lesbian couple, quirky start, great scenery


AE television has premiered its series “The Returned”, a remake an older series in France “Les Revenants”.  It is similar in concept to ABC’s “Resurrection”, which was based on a recent novel titled “The Returned”.  Another possible comparison is USA’s “The 4400”. 
  
The series is set in a town in the British Columbia Rockies. The scenery reminds one of "Twin Peaks". 
  
The series pilot, “Camille”, a teenage girl Camille (India Ennenga) has been lost for four years after an accident where a school bus had lost control and fallen off a cliff.  When she returns, she surprises her mother (Tandi Wright), and says she woke up in the woods and walked home for several hours and doesn’t remember the accident.  The episode ends with a more detailed recreation of the accident, where a mysterious little boy stands on the highway curve, shortly after Camille had “gone all the way” with a boyfriend. She calls her husband (Jack Pellegrino), who is at a local bar (which reminds me of a place I visited in Mammoth Lakes, CA in 2012) and just asks him to “come home”. 
    
The Pilot seemed interested in creating some violent flashbacks for others who will return.
    
But advanced intelligence indicates that the series will feature a lesbian pair, a doctor Julie Han (Sandrine Holt) and Nikki (Agnes Bruckner) (“After Ellen” story here ) Another TV industry take is here 

  
The official website is here

Sunday, March 08, 2015

CNN continues "Finding Jesus" with "John the Baptist" and the Temptations


Tonight, CNN aired Episdoe 2 of “Finding Jesus: Fact, Fiction or Forgery”, that is “John the Baptist:  Will DNA Prove Biblical Blood Ties?”, link here
  
The question is whether John the Baptist is related to Jesus, and whether Elizabeth was really Mary’s “cousin”?  The documentary discussed bone samples found in Bulgaria and a sample housed in a Kansas City museum that may belong to John the Baptist.
  
But it is the story that is more interesting,  An angel visits Mary, who goes to visit Elizabeth, who also reported such a visit.  What is an angel, in biological terms, anyway?
  
  
John was himself a charismatic preacher in his own right.  And, as the documentary indicates, the most interesting stuff happened in the countryside. 
  
The film re-enacts the baptism of Jesus by John, and they would never see each other again.  John’s speech would eventually get him imprisoned and beheaded – like in the Richard Strauss opera “Salome”.  That’s what happens when people speak out in totalitarian states (whether theocratic or secular), even when they’re right.  The documentary goes into detail as to what John wrote about.  It’s like executing a blogger in any strict Islamic country today.  John would write to Jesus and ask about loving and forgiving his enemies.
  
The film also documents the temptation of Jesus, by a man in black (sounds like ISIS).  The most provocative is the last temptation, to throw himself of a cliff and be saved by an angel.  A physicist would say, wake up in an alternate universe where he didn’t do it at all, as a result of quantum luck   

SNL offers Chris Hemsworth, who immediately explores body fascism and re-introduces "Chickenman" from the 60s


Last night, on move-forward for daylight savings time, Australian hunk star Chris Hemsworth hosted Saturday Night Live.
    
The skits seemed to focus on the quirky silly barracks banter of my days at Fort Eustis.  Maybe somebody on SNL has read my stuff!
    
Hemsworth started out with irony, bragging that he almost didn’t get parts as an actor because he was too perfect, too blond, too muscular, and the like.  Only on SNL.
    
Here goes (Disney Channel’s) “Brother 2 Brother”, as a Chris-look-alike (Brooks Wheelan) goes to take a calculus test at Worthington High School.  But the brother isn’t an identical twin (of Chris Hemsworth) as desired.  The teacher notes that "Chris" is smoother and somehow more "desirable."  (She wouldn't like Jai Courtney.)  I love the line, "He doesn't have that."  They could have taken this in the direction of my own screenplay "The Sub". 
    
    

Then the next episode features an actual live chicken, right out of the Saturday morning cartoon series of the 1960s, “Chickenman”.  That’s what I was called at Fort Eustis.  “He’s everywhere”.  

Let's not forget the opening skit impersonating Hillary Clinton telling all about her hiding behind personal email, Vox story by Tim Lee here. I have more about this on Wordpress here

Friday, March 06, 2015

"In Broad Daylight" covers Hitchcock-plot "hitman" murder of a spouse in Long Beach CA in 2004


The NBC Dateline Report “In Broad Daylight (II)” this evening gave us a truly Hitchcock-like case.  Why not call it “Hitman”?  It’s almost out of Paladin Press.

On Nov. 8. 2004, Lynn Schockner was murdered by knife in her home in the Bixby Knolls area of Long Beach CA while police were outside, summoned by a neighbor.  The immediate killer Nicholas Harvey, a steroid bobybuilder, caught by police.  It became apparent quickly that this was no ordinary residential burglary gone bad, like in a Coen Brothers movie.  Wiretaps and a lot of detective work led to acquaintance and underworld figure Frankie Jaramillo, who was paid $50000 by husband Manfred Schockner to do the deed.  The Long Beach Press Telegram has a summary of the Dateline case here.
  
A critical point in the investigation involved a restaurant conversation and confrontation between Frankie and Manfred, just like a famous scene with Al Pacino in the 1996 film “Heat”.  It turns out that “Frankie”, of somewhat indeterminate age, has become a “fallen angel” in my novel “Angel’s Brothers” (the code word for the concept is “client”, but I’ll get into all that another time – but the concept seemed to have a counterpart in this particular case; watching this episode really does bring up an issue with my own fiction plot).
  

The star of the episode seems to be the teenage son, who would now be 24 and apparently works as an architect of theme parks.  
    
NBC has used the same title (“In Broad Dylight (I)”) for a different episode, about Amber DuBois, here.  That may be reviewed another time. Apparently that title will be a sub-franchise on Dateline. 
    
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Long Beach Harbor author “D Ramey Logan WPPilot”, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike license.  I was last there myself in February 2002 (but in LA, nearby, in 2012). 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

USA Network premiers "Dig", with producers from "Homeland" and "Heroes"


Thursday night, the USA Network premiered  (with an 80-minute Pilot, including commercials) its promisingly apocalyptic series, “Dig”, with executive producers from “Homeland” and “Heroes” (Gideon Raff and Tim Kring). 
        
The beginning out like a typical Irving Wallace novel from the 1960s (especially “The Plot”, which never got filmed as far as I know – I loved the novel when in the Army).  There are isolated stories around the world (a kind of “Babel”).  A boy is raised in mysterious circumstances in New Mexico after learning he was lied to about his parents.  An orthodox Jew raises a red calf in Norway. 
  
But the main sequence of story concerns an FBI agent Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs), in Jerusalem to investigate a fugitive in a murder case.  He meets a young redhead (Alison Sudol) working on an archeological dig.  When he investigates the murder victim’s apartment, he find a book by a mysterious author in charge of the dig.  He also finds a curious paper diary with lots of drawings which he keeps – it’s the kind of project book you’d make in grade school.
  
There’s a great foot chase scene through old Jerusalem near the beginning that introduces many of the particulars.  By the way, the agent sleeps with his boss (Anne Heche).
It’s isn’t too hard to predict that the dig, involving the Ark of the Covenant, is going to lead to some end-times prophesies. And there will be people – religious fighters – very determined to see prophecy carried out. 
  
  
The official site is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Temple Mount by “Asf.tv” (translated from Hebrew) under Creative Commons 3.0 Share Alike license.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Britain's Channel 4 offers "Gay Muslims: UK", documentary look young adults adapting to the religious demands of their culture



 The film “Gay Muslims – UK”, from Channel 4 in Britain, from 2007, is available in six YouTube segments, starting with this one:
  
  
The film traces the histories of a number of gay teens and young adults who grew up in Muslim enclaves in London. One young man gets married and has a kid, but his wife finds out from rumor that he goes out with other men and leaves him.  But that would not be uncommon anywhere.  A young woman says she is not invited by her extended family to visit them in Pakistan.
  
The documentary emphasizes that strict conformity to the details of gender and marital roles is part of Muslim religious identity.  One does not question whether rules are “rational” or fair.  They supposedly were dictated by Allah for the supposed good and future of the entire tribe or community. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from London by Aurulien Guichard and Bal Boris, under Creative Commons 2.0 Share Alike license 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

CNN: "Finding Jesus" starts with "The Shroud of Turin"


CNN has started a new series on Sunday nights for the Lenten season, “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery”, with the basic link here
   
The first episode was “The Shroud of Turin”, and it fully documents the garment found in the Fourteenth Century (there are several others, like one found in Lirey, France.  The documentary reports the carbon dating that suggests the document was created about then, possibly by a crude camera called the “camera obscura”, which actually could deposit a negative on cloth using silver nitrate or carbonate, and urine (as a source of ammonia). 


However, there is another facial shroud in Spain. The Sudarium of Oviedo, on the northwest coast of Spain, in Galicia (I have been to Bilbao, in 2001, to the East, in the Basque area).  The Sudarium actually matches the shroud.
  
There are many people who question the Carbon 14 dating on the shroud, and believe the shroud may indeed have originated at the time of the crucifixion. 
  
The documentary covered a lot of details as to how the crucifixion would have progressed, leading to suffocation, with the nails through the wrists. It also covers the chronology of the handling of the body and the garments as is known.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of ark that holds the Sudarium, p.d., author Sitomon. 

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Bill Weir's "Wonder List" starts with a visit to Vanuatu (a kind of Xanadu)


Tonight, Bill Weir started his series “The Wonder List”, which is something more positive than “The Bucket List” (which I have not bothered to see).  This is a series about wonders of the world that may disappear in time because of sustainability issues, or disruptive technologies. It's a bit in the style of Bourdain's "Parts Unknown".  
   
Weir started the series with a visit to the Polynesian island nation of Vanuatu, northeast of Australia (Wiki).  Visitors can go closer to the crate of an active volcano (Mount Yasur) than on any other place on Earth.
   
Weir noted the enormous cultural differences between this country and most of the west.  People live in a tribal culture and emphasize simple agricultural, fishing and hunting skills.  Kids do not “need” advanced educations.
   
Weir called the episode “Is There a Hawaii Without Hotels?”  Well, there’s one, and they’re getting WiFi.  The best link for the episode is here

  

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Yasur by Rolf Cosar, under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-Alike. 

Update: March 8

Weir visited the Galapagos Islands, which are more developed than I thought. but tourists have to do without a lot of luxury and are only allowed in certain areas.  This is eco-tourism.  The huge tortoise was a main attraction.